It was a relatively new idea in the ’70s: a community on campus where a group of students can live and learn, morning ’til night. The first one was called Warren Ashby Residential College. That concept has blossomed, and learning communities of various types are springing up throughout campus.

Four new ones are being introduced in time for fall 2011:

  1. Exploratory Studies: Pre-Health (living and taking classes with others interested in health and human services, in Ragsdale Residence Hall)
  2. Sustainable Entrepreneurship (living and taking classes with others interested in building entrepreneurship knowledge and skills for business success, in Jefferson Suites)
  3. Summer Launch (for students wanting a little introductory support, as they move in early for a successful head start. They will live and take classes together yearlong, as they reside in Grogan Residence Hall.)
  4. UNCG Teach (non-residential, with students in housing throughout campus – and is for those interested in teaching and education.)

Those are in addition to learning communities already in place, including Warren Ashby, Grogan and Cornelia Strong residential colleges.

In learning communities (LCs), there’s a high level of contact with faculty, and the students do some activities together. In living-learning communities (LLCs), the students also live together in a residence hall. The Residential Colleges (RCs) take that a step further, with faculty involved with them even more.

A learning community provides you that small college feel at a large university.

The four new learning communities for Fall 2011 will add spots for an additional 430 students, allowing UNCG to provide these opportunities to nearly a quarter of all freshmen, Provost David H. Perrin says. “Importantly, we have accomplished this with a relatively modest investment of resources.”

Laura Pipe is director of learning communities in Undergraduate Studies. She notes a goal is to have at least 50 percent of the freshman population in a learning community in Fall 2012.

(See short clip of Pipe’s update on the four new learning communities – and what students can expect.)

The LCs require students to become more active participants in the learning experience with the faculty member – essentially a continuous partnership, Pipe says. The benefits? “It’s higher GPAs,” she explains, with greater learning.

Also, as she explains in the video, students have a ready-made group of friends, right from the start.

And that sense of community is important. As Dr. Steve Roberson, dean of undergraduate studies, pointed out in a UNCG Magazine interview, these LCs recreate that sense of community that students at our institution must have felt many decades ago when it was smaller.

As Pipe puts it, “A learning community provides you that small college feel at a large university.”

Pipe speaks of her relationships with faculty members in each step of her education. They inspired her, and they showed interest in her abilities and ideas.

Learning communities foster that type of connectivity, Pipe explains. “You get all the benefits of getting to know a faculty member more closely, more intently – and getting to know a set of students more closely and intently.”