What Makes a Successful Themed Housing & Living Learning Community?

Are you ready to start Living Learning Communities on your campus but don’t know where to begin?
Themed Living-Learning Communities include a unique atmosphere for residents who share common interests and are interested in an environment that supports personal growth, both socially and academically. Themed Living Learning Communities are becoming increasingly popular on college and university campuses. But what exactly is a Living Learning Community? LLCs, are residential-based communities focused around a student’s academic interest. Frequently, a Living Learning Community also has a dedicated faculty member or academic programs for residents. Housing themed around personal or social interests are sometimes called resident colleges or themed housing. After being accepted into an LLC, students live with others who are part of the same community to foster an outside-the-classroom learning experience. Three schools that have created and maintained successful Living Learning Communities are Dartmouth College, Bucknell University and Clemson University. We interviewed them for this blog post and here’s what we learned.

Positive Impacts of LLCs

LLC's have been shown to increase student retention rates and academic performance according to this study on Beyond the Traditional Retention Data: A Qualitative Study of the Social Benefits of Living Learning Communities.

Rachael Class-Giguere, Director of Undergraduate Housing at Dartmouth College, has seen an increase in the number of students applying to LLCs, and the number of LLCs has grown in the last 5-10 years. One benefit of the program is that there usually aren’t roommate conflicts. “Students have an investment when they’re in the same program, so we haven’t seen many conflicts. Our LLC programs are successful overall. Students feel accepted and valued being part of the LLC communities,” said Rachael.

Getting new students connected quickly

Bucknell University has both LLCs (referred to as Residential Colleges or RCs) for first-year students and an Affinity Housing Program (AHP) for continuing students. Stephen Apanel, Director of Housing Services for Bucknell, stated, “Our students become immersed in Bucknell at a faster rate when they’re in RCs. Also, RCs have more people involved: an RA, a junior fellow, and academic support, so there are more people to go to for help. The students have to create a constitution and determine things like a guest policy, so the students hold each other accountable. Also, the affinity leader is responsible for everyone filling out their housing application. RCs and AHPs create an environment of responsibility and accountability.”

In addition, students who are members of underrepresented groups are more likely to join RCs. Even though their first-year GPA and retention rates look the same as the rest of the first-year cohort, when looking at student engagement as measured by NSSE, the program improves student interaction with diverse others, reflective and integrative learning, and college transition.

“Students have an investment when they’re in the same program, so we haven’t seen many conflicts. Our LLC programs are successful overall. Students feel accepted and valued being part of the LLC communities.”

Rachael Class-Giguere, Director of Undergraduate Housing at Dartmouth College(UA)

Clemson has also had success with the LLC housing process. Sara Burns, IT Services Specialist, said, “We’ve set up the process so that we only show those LLCs that the student is eligible for. This has helped to cut down on a lot of confusion from students in previous years that would sign up for an LLC only to later be emailed that they were removed from the interest list because they didn’t meet X or Y requirement. This also allows us to utilize profiles for roommate group creation to ensure only students in matching LLCs can create Roommate Groups. We’ve also been able to highlight if there are external applications or extra fees for the LLC.”

Examples of Successful Living Learning Communities

At Clemson University, about 20% of both first-year and continuing students in the academic year 2018-2019 are in LLCs. The number of first-year students is roughly 90% higher than continuing students.

Programs include:

  • First-year students – several LLCs such as Air Force ROTC, CONNECTIONS, CREATE, Community for Undergraduate Business Students (CUBS), Honors, IDEAS, Wellness
  • Continuing students – several LLCs such as – Call Me MISTER, Cultural Exchange Community, Honors, Leading for our Environment and Future

Bucknell University offers these programs:

First-year students

  • Nine Residential Colleges (RCs) – arts, discovery, environmental, food, global, humanities, languages & cultures, social justice, society & technology
  • LLCs are based on classes that students sign up for during their first semester; students are then grouped into a community to live based on that class
    of the 900 first-years, about one-third are in RCs

Continuing students

  • Affinity Housing Program (AHP) – a group of students decide on a theme, live in a house and provide programming for the house and the Bucknell community
  • Themes vary and they can be academic or not; there are some rules around what the theme can be, such as you can’t have all athletes in a house
  • There are support layers with the house – an RA, an affinity leader (who does some of the programming, housing assignments and is the voice of the house) and a faculty/staff advisor

At Dartmouth, there are approximately 475 beds for the following Living Learning Communities.

Programs include:

  • First-year students – several LLCs include first-years and upper class, such as Entrepreneurship, Global Village, Interfaith, Shabazz Center for Intellectual Inquiry and Triangle house. Two programs are just for first-years: Humanities and Thriving through Transition
  • Continuing students – several LLCs such as Global Village, language and shared interest

Read More:  Improve Student Roommate Matching with Lifestyle Questions

So what’s the best way to manage the LLC application process?

Each of these schools has an LLC application process that works best for them.  Here are the highlights of each school’s LLC application process and how they use StarRez to help them manage the process

Here is what works for Dartmouth:

  • The LLC advisor determines the requirements to get into an LLC; they could be essay questions, a presentation or a language sample.
  • Students can apply for three LLCs in order of preference. Dartmouth does their best to get students into their top choice. Rachael stated, “We encourage students to pick three LLCs so if they don’t get into their top choice, they have other options. It’s a great way to fill all the programs and give the students options.”
  • The LLC advisor goes through all the applications and determines who gets accepted and who doesn’t, and creates a waiting list, and sends this information to housing.
  • Housing assigns roommates for first-year students. Continuing students can pick their roommate if they both apply to the same LLC.
  • Housing assigns rooms, making decisions for LLC student first.
  • All students, LLC or non-LLC, get notified of the housing decisions at the same time. If a student doesn’t get into an LLC, the student is put back into the general housing pool.

Bucknell successfully manages the application process like this:

  • Students indicate interest in LLC participation via a checkbox on the housing application.
  • A residential college coordinator decides who gets accepted.
  • Students can select their roommate.
  • Housing assigns the LLC students to rooms with the communities grouped together as much as possible.
  • Students receive an email once they’re accepted with steps to complete their sign-up process. (sign up for classes, housing tasks, etc.)

Clemson uses advisors to guide the process

  • The partner (i.e., the LLC advisor) determines the application process. There may be an application or not. Students only see those LLCs that are applicable to If a student isn’t coded for the correct major or honors program, he/she won’t be able to choose that LLC.
  • The partner determines who gets into the LLC. The Housing department provides a list of those students who have signed up as interested in the housing portal; it’s up to the partner to reach out to students to have them fill out the application (if there is one) or the students can find it themselves online.
  • Students can select a roommate; only those with the same room profile can see one another. They don’t want mixed LLCs/non-LLCs students due to time slot sign-ups, space allocation and program requirements.
  • Students receive a time slot to sign up for housing. LLC students receive rooms before non-LLC students.

Living Learning Communities can be an excellent way for students to connect with like-minded peers, feel more connected to the school and get academic help when needed.  However, managing the application process isn’t always smooth sailing.  From creating an LLC application process within the StarRez Portal to sorting students who have been accepted into various LLCs, StarRez customers have found success customizing the solution to fit their business process needs

StarRez Can Help Manage the LLC Process

StarRez can help manage the Living Learning Communities/Themed Student Housing acceptance process through the online application process. Applicants can indicate an interest in an LLC and submit an essay question or multiple choice responses. After the acceptance process, StarRez has built-in functionality so applicants can only select roommates in the same LLC. During online room selection, the student will only be eligible to select rooms for their LLC.  Contact us if you’d like to hear how StarRez can help you manage your LLC process.

More StarRez Insights

Read more blogs on related topics like:

The Impact of Gender Inclusiveness on Campus

Recent Trends in Residential Buildings & Campus Living Spaces

Improve Student Roommate Matching with Effective Lifestyle Questions

StarRez News
Our number one aim is to provide our readers with all of the information they need to keep informed on changes as they occur.

 Elevate your offering with software that empowers communities