Strategic Directions

Drop Shadow

Establish Living-Learning Communities

Objective

Design and implement a comprehensive Living-Learning Community (LLC) program that accommodates all first-year students by 2014. Linking the core curriculum to specific themes, such as social justice, science and transformation, sustainability, and faith, guides students in exploring issues from multiple perspectives. National studies show that LLCs provide an integrated experience that promotes intellectual communication between faculty and students, improves student GPAs, enhances civic engagement, increases retention rates, and decreases negative student behaviors.

Living-Learning Community Task Force

A Living-Learning Community Task Force of students, faculty, and administrators, co-chaired by associate deans from Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, planned preceptorial courses and a residential structure to support three theme-based living-learning communities for freshman students entering in Fall 2011. The model was developed by benchmarking programs at peer and model institutions and defined for USD with input from a wide range of campus stakeholders.

Progress
A feasibility study was launched with three sets of theme-lined courses in Fall 2010, with information collected from participants about their expectations and experience at the start and end of the semester.
Courses and living arrangements were finalized during Spring 2011 for the Fall 2011 pilot program. The co-directors launched a Living-Learning Communities website and designed a brochure to promote the program to prospective students and their families.
During Summer 2011, faculty directors completed the first part of a pre- and post-test on student learning outcomes related to each specific theme and a common outcome on diversity across themes.
The Fall 2011 pilot involved over 300 students, 22 faculty, 25 preceptorial assistants, 12 resident assistants, one community director, and one resident minister across three themes—Social Justice, Sustainability, and Honors—that linked three sets of seven linked courses integrating academic and co-curricular life.
The Fall to Spring persistence rate for LLC participants exceeds that of the full first-year cohort.
Timeline
Academic year 2011-12: Pilot and evaluate preceptorial courses for three themes—21 courses.
Spring 2012: Develop a proposal for sophomore living-learning communities.
Academic year 2012-13: Pilot and evaluate five themes—35 courses. The themes are Believe, Belong, Become; Globalization; Space, Place, and Sound; Sustainability; and The Natural World.
Academic year 2013-14: Pilot and evaluate six themes—42 courses.
Fall 2014: The first-year living-learning community program is fully developed with eight themes--48 courses.
Measurable Indicators
Results of theme-focused student learning outcomes demonstrate integrated learning.
Increased persistence and graduation rates as more students participate in LLCs.