Approximately 250 students at the University of Missouri-Rolla will learn about entrepreneurship, research, design and women in leadership this fall — but not in the classroom. These students will be part of four interactive “learning communities” where much of the learning will occur in non-traditional fashion.
The learning communities are a crucial part of UMR’s new Residential College, which first opens this month. When the first new students arrived at the newly completed facility on Aug. 13, they found more than a nice place to live. The facility provides a common living space for students interested in those four areas of study – global research, global entrepreneurship, global design or women as global leaders. Upper class students will move in to the facility Aug. 20-21.
It’s all part of a new concept among colleges and universities to merge students’ living quarters with learning opportunities. Students enrolled in the facility will live in interactive learning communities that focus on their area of study. As part of their respective learning community, students will participate in special study programs with UMR faculty members.
For instance, students involved in the global research initiative will work with individual faculty and enroll in a half-credit-hour course. Students in the global entrepreneurship area will learn from alumni and local entrepreneurs, and those in the global design area will work with
industry design leaders and participate on nationally prominent student design teams affiliated with the UMR Student Design Center. Students enrolled in the women as global leaders track will participate in UMR’s Women’s Leadership Institute and other programs.
“College is an experience,” says Tina Sheppard, director of residential life at UMR. “Residential living and academics are the two largest components of that experience. The theory behind the Residential College assumes these two components are joined and can build off of each other to enrich that college experience.”
Three of the four learning communities began enrolling students last semester, although because the Residential College facility had yet to be completed, the students lived in off-campus housing. Of the 140 students participating last year, nearly 100 plan to return this year, when the experience will include the sense of community living in a single unit will provide. This is the first year for the global design learning community.
Even without a common facility for students to live in, the combination has showsn success. The average grade point average among students participating in the three learning communities available in 2004-2005 was 3.17, compared to 2.94 for students not enrolled in the program.