What’s in a name

When Nick French started his college career at State, he was looking for friends and classmates with similar ambitious goals.

“I believe exposure to people with similar interests leads to stronger bonds,” says French, a sophomore biology and psychology double major. “Being around those same goal-oriented people is a good thing.”
SDSU’s plan to amp up student engagement and create comfortable living and learning environments is in full swing.

Jackrabbit Grove

This fall, four new SDSU residence halls opened. They were built to accommodate the growing number of students and to implement additional Living and Learning Communities.

Hallie Walker Hyde Hall, Theodore W. Schultz Hall, Ben Reifel Hall and Honors Hall create the Jackrabbit Grove neighborhood. The halls were designed based on student feedback and focus groups.

In surveys, students asked for smaller floors within the new residence halls. Approximately 35 students per floor allow connections to take place for students holding similar academic interests.

Each floor has a lounge area, a kitchen, laundry facilities, a fireplace and study rooms.

“We wanted the student-comfort factor because that translates into happiness with the living environments, which translates into a connection to campus, and, of course, ultimately produces student success connected with their academics,” says Doug Wermedal, associate vice president for student affairs.

The study rooms create a social experience outside students’ rooms. “If I needed advice or wanted to bug someone that I knew, the opportunity was literally a step away,” says French.

“Connecting with other students from the get-go is a vital factor involved with student retention,” says Wermedal. “Living closely among peers in an educational environment and being near campus resources makes students feel comfortable with their new independent college experience.”

Living and Learning Communities

Students with similar interests and majors now have the option to reside on the same floor in what SDSU calls Living and Learning Communities.

French, originally from Brookings, lived in Mathews Hall last year in the Honors College LLC. This fall, French will live in the new Honors Hall and continue to be a part of the Honors College LLC.

“There were actually not as many people as I thought there would be in my LLC,” says French. “It was only one floor, and I liked that I saw all of these people in my classes.”

Living and Learning

Communities structure learning in the residence halls through themed floors or by clustering students by major or interest areas.

“The communities reject the traditional approach of separating a student’s experience into two worlds—inside and outside the classroom,” says Laurie Nichols, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This approach understands that learning continues after a student leaves class and returns to the residence hall.”

French believes that the LLCs are wonderful.

“As the undergraduate class number rises, it is expected that students are not going to be able to meet everyone they’d like,” says French. “LLCs make it much easier.”

Each community has a Learning Community Coordinator responsible for hosting study groups and tutoring sessions, and serving as a support person for residents on each floor.

“My Learning Community Coordinator on the Honors floor was really cool,” says French. “For me, it meant there was another person to interact with, and I especially liked ours because he had a similar major.”

Seven Living and Learning Communities are already functioning on campus—Agriculture and Biological Sciences, Engineering, Health Professionals, Health Lifestyles, Honors College, Academic Residential Community—for helping students make the transition to college life, and Tioti—for those interested in American Indian culture.

Union Expansion

State is taking the diverse interests of students into consideration in other areas as well.

A 20,000 square foot, 350-seat student union addition was inspired by student requests and will house three nationally recognized restaurant brands—Chick-fil-A, Panda Express and Extreme Pita.

The expansion fits into the academic living and learning environment at State because many students prefer to study in a social setting.

Fireplaces and a wall of windows create a dynamic space to socialize and study.

“I prefer to study in my dorm,” says French. “But I lived in Mathews, so I ended up being in the student union quite a bit. I ate Einstein’s practically all year.”

A new student career development office will be located in the building to allow for easier central access.

The expansion and renovation of the living and learning environment on campus will continue through 2018 as part of the IMPACT 2018 Strategic Plan—SDSU’s action steps to deliver greater value to students.

“The best part of living in a Living and Learning Community was being able to develop connections with accomplished people,” says French. “I know I’ll be able to use the community to benefit my future.”

Karissa Kuhle

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