Living Learning Communities Foster Connections
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 02:10
Georgetown’s expanded Living Learning Communities, which now encompass ten living spaces in both dorms and townhouses, bring students with common interests together under one roof.
The LLCs include Bayit — the Jewish interest living area — Culture and Performance, Explore D.C., the French Floor, Global Living, The Greenhouse, Justice and Diversity in Action, Living Well, Magis Row and Muslim Interest.
“Living Learning Communities empower students to integrate academic achievement with co-curricular programs in a collaborative environment allowing students to connect their learning,” Associate Director of Residence Life Katie Heather wrote in an email. “Although each LLC is different, the goals are the same.”
These goals, according to Heather, include enhancing the overall educational experience of participants, establishing a sense of community and encouraging members to maintain the university’s traditions and mission.
Building a Home
This semester, students founded two new LLCs: Bayit and The Greenhouse.
“I thought it was time that Georgetown [developed] a space where students can … live sustainably,” Megan Griffin (COL ’14) wrote in an email about her idea for establishing The Greenhouse, an LLC devoted to the environment and sustainability. “A lot of other universities have had that for a long time. But then my idea expanded to include programming, outreach [and] trips, and I realized this community could help to influence Georgetown as a whole … and I think this approach will make The Greenhouse much more dynamic and inclusive.”
While most LLCs are the product of student efforts, others were created under different circumstances.
In 2010, the French Floor was established by late French professor Dorothy Betz’s husband, professor emeritus of English Paul Betz. Dorothy Betz had advocated for a Francophone floor during her time at the university.
“The French LLC is fairly new,” French Floor Residential Assistant Jessica Rempe (COL ’15) said. “It was basically designed to give students a place to practice speaking their French and to help prepare them for study abroad or returners who want to keep speaking French when they get back from their study abroad.”
Heather said that Residence Life hopes to add more LLCs as long as students and faculty remain interested.
“The long-term vision is to associate an academic class with a Living Learning Community,” Heather wrote. “This would add to the richness of the community and allow students and faculty to integrate the experience inside and outside of the classroom.”
The Muslim Interest Living Community is currently one of only two reliigous-based LLCs; however, approximately one-third of its residents are non-Muslims, according to student coordinator Shifa Kanjwal (SFS ’13).
“The Muslim Interest Living Community was actually created as a living space primarily for Muslim students, but also [for] non-Muslim students who share similar interests in community building, campus activism and service,” Kanjwal said. “It seeks to create a strong and supportive alternative living environment for students who want to focus on things like prayer and service.”
Although four LLCs this year are grade-level specific — Explore D.C., the French Floor, Magis Row and Muslim Interest — the four others are open to all students. However, of the four LLCs that allow students from all years to apply, only three — Justice and Diversity in Action, Culture and Performance and Global Living — have freshmen through seniors living together in one location.
Eric Nevalsky (SFS ’16), one of six freshmen living on the JDA floor, said the community has helped define his first year at Georgetown.
“I think it’s been good to be on a floor that’s all four years because then you aren’t sucked into the craziness of freshman year,” Nevalsky said. “I think the community is very welcoming. There are people … who have been there four years, so a lot of them came in as freshmen, [and] know what it’s like.”
Lisa Frank (COL ’13) has lived in JDA since freshman year and said that she appreciates living in an LLC that includes people from all years and provides opportunities to interact with other students.
“I like being a leader, to help people just coming to Georgetown [figure] out what they want to get involved with. The energy of having new people on the floor every year is fantastic,” Frank said. “JDA allows you to walk into any community on campus and say, ‘Hey I know this person.’”
Like JDA, the Culture and Performance LLC also includes students from every grade. This year, there are 11 freshmen on the floor.
“So far, I really love it. I am so glad that I am living here my freshman year,” JDA resident Ericka Mabrie (COL ’16) said. “I still have lots of opportunities to meet freshmen and hang out with freshmen, but here, I feel so welcomed by the older people on the floor. There were all just really friendly, and no one made me feel like, ‘Oh, I’m a freshman so I’m not a part of anything.’”
Students who have lived in LLCs said that the close-knit communities allow residents to build unique relationships.
“I think it’s really a great way to connect with like-minded people on campus [whom] you wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to meet before, to engage in things like activism and interfaith dialogue and really live in a supportive environment that makes you feel comfortable to hone these as parts of your identity as a student on Georgetown’s campus,” Kanjwal said.
Heather reiterated this objective.