Learning communities at Northern Arizona University are breaking out of their walls with a new offering to students who want to engage outside of the classroom with peers in their major.
The new College-Based Learning Communities, set to launch next fall, will build on the success of NAU’s 30 Residential Learning Communities that place incoming freshmen in on-campus housing with other students from their major or area of interest. The College-Based Learning Communities will be open to all students, regardless of their living accommodations.
Pam Foti, co-director of the Learning Communities Program and professor of geography, planning and recreation, said the purpose of the new learning communities is to connect sophomore and junior students who have similar areas of academic interest with faculty who share that passion.
“College-Based Learning Communities cluster small groups of our students into a cohort where a shared academic interest may be explored in depth with the faculty director who works with the students to create, focus and deliver the semester’s work,” Foti said.
It is hoped that students in the College-Based Learning Communities feel more grounded and connected to their field of study, said Sue Belatti, co-director of the Learning Communities Program and assistant director of Residential Learning Communities for Housing and Residence Life. “Where Residential Learning Communities focus on freshmen, this program will be offered to upper-division students as well and will continue to address transitional issues with a stronger emphasis on a student’s field of interest,” she said.
Freshmen who lived in a Residential Learning Community in 2011 had a second-year retention rate of 83 percent, compared to 75 percent of non-program participants that year.