In a way, the eighth floor commons room of Harbor Hall is like an all-hours faculty lounge.
There, future educators gather between classes – as well as in the wee hours of the night in pajamas – drinking coffee and discussing questions, expectations and frustrations about teaching.
This is the “Aspiring Teachers Floor” – one of UMBC’s nine Living Learning Communities, an initiative directly supported by contributions to the UMBC Annual Fund – a place where education happens 24-7.
“You can interact and find classmates if you need the help,” says Katie Gauvin ’12, math and education, who is also a Sherman STEM Scholar. “It’s really beneficial to have those sorts of resources available all the time.”
Almost 300 students currently participate in the Living Learning Communities, specialized dormitories that offer students active learning opportunities in teaching, arts, humanities, sciences, and community service to complement their classroom experiences and help build a sense of community.
Together, students bonded by similar interests as varied as information technology, potential major exploration, visual arts, intercultural studies and service learning can compare classes, study in high-tech lounges, complete service learning projects, take field trips and even organize speaker series and film festivals for other students.
The first LLC floors opened in 2006; since then, administrators have noticed an increase in interest in the floors, as well as an extra preparedness by the students when they come to class.
“These experiences connect back to academic tools,” says Jill Randles, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education. “The students are having conversations (in the LLCs) and they’re coming back into the classroom and it’s clear they’ve been talking. That’s where you see the value.”
It’s no wonder, considering how the groups tend to gel, not only as students with common goals, but as friends who eat, play and learn together. “It feels like we’re a family,” says Aspiring Teachers Floor resident assistant Okemeteri Esikepe ’10, biological sciences. “We have good times and bad. It makes me feel good when we’re all together.”
To support the Living Learning Communities, click here.
Originally published Fall 2009