The transition from high school to college can be a difficult lifestyle change for incoming college freshmen. Students do not live at home anymore, college courses have a different structure than high school, and time management can be a challenge. Texas Tech University has provided an option to help students overcome these struggles.
In 1999, Texas Tech created learning communities in various residence halls around campus. Each community is designated to a specific residence hall, with a whole floor reserved for students who have similar academic interests and majors. There is at least one wing in each residence hall focused on different specialties including science and engineering, education, fine arts and more.
The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources’ Learning Community is located on the second floor of the Stangel and Murdough residence halls. Women reside in Stangel Hall and men live in Murdough Hall. Students on the learning community floor are provided with several specialized programs to help them achieve common goals.
Stephanie Zylka, residence life coordinator for academic initiatives within University Student Housing, shared benefits of Texas Tech learning communities for first-year college students’ academic and social transition.
“The learning community works to help integrate students into their college,” Zylka said. “National research shows there are higher grade point averages for students living in the learning community.”
Zylka also explained there are community advisors on the floor from CASNR to assist students.
Community advisors are Texas Tech students with at least sophomore level standing.
“There is more campus involvement and social bonding with learning community students,” Zylka said. “It creates a common social aspect that everyone can enjoy.”
In addition to the learning community, Texas Tech implemented the Freshmen Interest Group. This program is only for students who live in a learning community. Students in Freshmen Interest Group take three to five classes together, as well as a freshmen seminar course that equips students with the skills needed while in the college.
With Freshmen Interest Group and the learning community combined, Texas Tech strives for a high level of student retention. Savannah Leonard, a sophomore agricultural communications major from Sonora, Texas, said she really benefited from living in the community because she got involved and instantly made friends.
“The learning community is very beneficial for students in agriculture,” Leonard said. “It helps students in CASNR to connect with each other on a more personal level than just seeing each other in class.”
There was no hesitation when Leonard considered places to live during her freshman year. Her older brother lived in the CASNR learning community just two years before
Leonard stated she knew her brother enjoyed living there, and she wanted the same experience. She also said it wasn’t just her brother that suggested the CASNR learning community, several people she spoke with suggested Stangel Hall.
Thomas Baker, a freshman agricultural economics major from Seymour, Texas, currently lives in the CASNR learning community. Baker says he greatly benefits from living on the second floor with friends who are in the same classes. Group project meetings and study groups are regularly held on his floor.
“The learning community of CASNR has personally helped me through college,” Baker said.
“It has helped me not only socially, but with my studies too.”
Baker added he can usually be found playing football in the halls with fellow CASNR students.
With volleyball games, hall parties and study groups, the CASNR learning community never slows down.
“Because of my learning community experience,” Leonard said, “I can continue my time at Texas Tech fearless and confident.”