College Communities: The Benefits of Living and Learning Together

by Heather Nelson

For first-year students at Azusa Pacific University, joining college communities is about more than just meeting new people. Through Living-Learning Communities, freshmen at APU have the chance to share classroom and living space with other students who have similar backgrounds and educational interests. These special college communities allow students to feel connected, understood, and confident to learn at a university level.

What Is a Living-Learning Community?

The idea of Living-Learning Communities at APU started with the school’s Honors College. Traditionally, students enrolled in the Honors program have lived together in Honors Housing and taken classes together as a cohort. It’s a highly collaborative and tight-knit community that helps Honors students transition into university life and engage more holistically with their peers and professors in the learning process.

APU wanted to expand this idea of living and learning together to other departments, so in 2018, the university formally implemented its Living-Learning Communities.

First, a community for first-year psychology students launched. It gave students majoring in the same field the opportunity to feel supported by one another during their first year. The group enrolled in three courses (two in the fall semester and one in the spring) together while also living in the same on-campus dorm. The benefits were quickly identified, as more students felt they were able to maintain their studies and feel at home on campus.

A Sense of Community Enhances the College Experience

The Psychology Living-Learning Community proved to be incredibly successful. Students praised the program for helping combat the difficulties of college “firsts,” like starting new classes, participating in classroom discussions, and exploring the surrounding area.

As a part of this group, students expressed they were able to find a sense of community and felt more comfortable sharing ideas and questions in the classroom. Many also noted that they were confident their fellow students and professors knew them well—and truly wanted the best for them.

Today, the Psychology Living-Learning Community has grown to include two groups on campus. Due to their success, APU is gearing up to launch a new community for first-generation college students in fall 2019.

Exploring as a First-Generation College Student

Starting college is a huge transition for anyone, but being the first person in your family to do so can present a different set of challenges. For this reason, APU is soon launching a Living-Learning Community specifically for undeclared GEN1 Scholars. (Undeclared or Exploring students are those who have not yet decided on a specific major.)

This cohort of 30 students will be the first in their families to go to college, and they’re still figuring out what academic route best suits them. The Exploring GEN1 Scholars Living-Learning Community will group these students within the same hall of an on-campus dorm and enroll them in two of the same classes for their first fall semester.

As with the communities before them, the hope is that GEN1 Scholars will feel known, supported, and engaged during this vulnerable (and sometimes overwhelming) first year of college.

Living and learning together on a college campus is usually something that happens by chance. When sharing space at home and in the classroom becomes intentional, it opens up a world of compassion, understanding, and camaraderie in students diving into their freshman year. Those who take part in APU’s Living-Learning Communities can rest assured they’ll have a team of peers and supporters by their side as they navigate the college experience.

Are you interested in becoming a part of Living-Learning Communities at Azusa Pacific University? Learn about these and other offerings provided by the Academic Success Center.