President David E. Daniel

September 2014

 

Living Learning Communities Offer Homes Away from Home

As president of a rapidly growing university and as a parent myself, I know how difficult the transition from high school to college can be for first-year students and how life-changing the college experience can be. We aim to make the time at UT Dallas one of the most positive in our students' lives.

Away from familiar surroundings and faces, freshmen soon discover a few essential things: college-level assignments are more demanding, navigating a new campus requires a map, and sharing a dorm suite can take some getting used to. They will find that choices are almost limitless.

LLC freshmen Kayla Romero (left) and Daniela Vargas will share a suite as well as study and take some classes together.

How a freshman student adjusts during the first year – even the first semester – can influence how and whether he or she will stay in school and earn a degree.

That's why we have a comprehensive program targeted to first-year students at UT Dallas – the Freshman Year Experience. One of the components of this effort is the Living Learning Communities (LLC) – groups of freshmen who share common academic goals or interests as well as housing. The idea is to make the residential life component a big part of the overall positive experience at UT Dallas.

LLC participants are grouped on the same floors or wings of residence halls, where they can study, take classes together and hang out with like-minded peers. It's like having a built-in set of connections on campus. Parents often tell us they wish that something similar had existed when they went to college.

I am particularly excited to tell you that this fall, with the opening of the new Residence Hall West, we have more than doubled the spaces allocated to LLC participation.

Dedicated to housing LLC students, the $75 million, 339,000-square-foot complex is our largest housing facility to date, with its own dining hall and recreation center. It is the fifth residence hall we've built since 2009. We expect about 4,700 students to live on campus this fall.

If previous years are any indication, the 580 freshmen in this year's Learning Living Communities will become members of small, tightly knit groups. Computer science LLC members gather to work on new phone apps or enjoy multi-computer network games. Pre-health group members take advantage of group study sessions for challenging science courses and opportunities to discuss career options with local health care professionals. Many participants remain roommates year after year.

Since 2006, 2,424 UT Dallas students have been a part of these academic communities. Our institutional research has shown us over time that as a group, students in LLCs tend to earn higher grade point averages than peers who do not choose such an association. They are more likely to remain enrolled and they connect more easily with professors whom they've become acquainted with as faculty mentors through their LLC experience.

At UT Dallas, we expect excellence in everything we do, and that extends to residential life on campus. Living Learning Communities offer a holistic experience that helps students to bring out the best in themselves. The experience can be life changing — that's what we're in the business of doing here at UT Dallas.

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About This Newsletter

The President's Viewpoint is a periodic newsletter distributed to a select group of alumni, friends, faculty and staff. It comes from the desk of Dr. David E. Daniel, president of The University of Texas at Dallas, and provides the ultimate insider’s view on the news and concerns of the University.