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Photo courtesy of Austin Peay State University

Communications department forms a new community on campus

The Department of Communications has developed the very first Living and Learning Community (LLC) on campus.

Last year, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Housing Joe Mills sent out an email to faculty and staff asking if there was any interest in forming an LLC on campus. Communications professors Amy Ritchart and Mike Dunn expressed interest and started forming an LLC for the department.

An LLC integrates students’ academic and personal lives by fostering learning in class and in residence halls. Students in the LLC share classes and the majority live in the same residence hall. The LLC aims at fostering a community and dialogue both inside and outside class.

Students in the program take block courses consisting of COMM 1200 (Introduction to Mass Communication) and APSU 1000. For the spring semester the department plans to have the students take COMM 2020 (Media, Society and the Individual) and a core math class.

At the moment there are no specific halls the students have to live in, but a majority of the students live in Castle Heights. In the next few years, Ritchart and Dunn said they hope to establish a residence hall where all LLC members can stay.

“What we are looking forward to in the coming year, is that students are able to sign up for the LLC at the time they sign up for Housing. They would most likely be placed in Castle Heights,” Ritchart said.

Although the whole department is involved with the community, Ritchart and Dunn oversee the program and  its students.

Ritchart said one of the main reasons the department started the LLC was to engage students and to give them a sense of belonging within the college environment.

“Our role is not to just teach them the material, we are also guiding them to a future,” Dunn said.

The community is open to any freshman student majoring or minoring in communications.

“All aspects from journalism, broadcasting, media technology, pop culture to event planning are allowed in the community,” Ritchart said.

Students involved said they enjoy having familiar faces in their classes and residence halls. Many of them find it beneficial when it comes to asking questions about classwork.

“There is more communication…you can talk to the same group of kids about the same classes and get more work done,” Maxwell Hill, a freshman communications major, said.

Other students agree with Hill’s statements and point to other benefits the program offers them.

“Every student has a different aspect of how they want to major in communications which makes class interesting and allows us to learn more,” Tianna Jenkins, a freshman communications major, said. “Also you are seeing these students at least three times a week, as opposed to other classes where you might only see them once a week.”

In addition to the LLC, which is primarily focused on freshmen, Ritchart and Dunn said they want to expand the program into the students’ sophomore year.

A concern Dunn said he has is the idea of the sophomore slump, where students entering their second year of college may feel alone and less guided. As a result, Ritchart and Dunn want to create a second year seminar series for sophomores.

The freshmen involved in the LLC could transition to the seminar their sophomore year. The idea is to have at least three to four 90-minute seminars covering a variety of topics.

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