First-year co-ed residence halls strengthen living-learning community
Four short weeks into their first year at McDaniel, and no one wonders whether the first-year students on the fourth floor of Rouzer Hall are connecting to the college or each other.
The 45 students, men and women in three first-year seminars, are already cheering each other on at athletic events, keeping each other awake through homework and studying for other classes – and several of the students from the West Coast already have a Thanksgiving dinner invitation from classmate Alyssa Gilboy to her home in Marlton, N.J.
In fact, in professor Gretchen McKay’s “From Chaos to Compromise” seminar, students are debating in roles in a Reacting to the Past session focused on Athens – and they are considering banning all “game talk” on Friday evenings just to give them a break from the topic they can’t seem to stop talking about.
The Rouzer Living-Learning Community is getting rave reviews from students, peer mentors and professors alike. Made possible when renovations to first-year residence halls opened the door to co-ed living, the new community makes it more convenient for these students to meet for group projects or even to help each other with classwork when they all live on the same dorm floor.
“The LLC is creating an enhanced sense of community,” McKay said, explaining that the nature of her seminar made it an excellent choice for the trial program that will be evaluated and possibly expanded to include more first-year seminars in the future. “I see a difference in the length and quality of their debates in class because they are able to easily get together in the common area or in each other’s room without leaving the building or having to decide where to meet.”
First-year students Hannah Smutny of Woolford, Md., and Richard Rickman of Princeton, N.J., have already made close friends with classmates from their seminar.
“The opportunity to meet with classmates for any reason, whether it is class related or just hanging out, is invaluable,” Rickman said.
The other two seminar professors – English professors Robert Kachur teaching “Horror in Fiction and Film” and Lisa Breslin teaching “Journalism in the 21st Century” – are noticing a difference in their classes as well. With that advantage comes responsibility, says Breslin, associate dean of Student Academic Life.
“My students feel it is an honor to be part of this LLC, and ask how they can give back,” says Breslin, who teaches one of her twice-weekly classes in the common area of Rouzer. “So I tell them to reach out to others – to connect with other first-year students who may not feel as solid as they do.”
McDaniel is known for its close-knit community, for being its own living-learning community. The new arrangement enhances that sense of community, making it easier for freshmen to connect if those first steps are made for them, Breslin says.
“The glue is already there – this is just stronger glue,” she says.