First-Year Students Encouraged to Take Advantage of All Living Learning Communities Have to Offer
First-Year Students Encouraged to Take Advantage of All Living Learning Communities Have to Offer

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

They hiked together in the woods the first week of school and did yoga on West Haven beach just before finals.

The members of UNH’s Health and Wellness Living Learning Community (LLC) also took part in a "Healthy Residence Hall Cooking" lesson by Matthew Caporale, executive director of the Career Development Center.

These were just a few of the programs Renee Prajer, associate professor of dental hygiene, coordinated last year for incoming students in her LLC. The activities made UNH feel like home for Delaney Sears `16 during her first year on campus.

Last year the engineering LLC visited the Intrepid Museum in N.Y. First-year students are encouraged to take advantage of all LLCs have to offer outside of the classroom.

“I couldn't believe that I could come to school, to college no less, and get to go to the beach and do yoga and relax,” Sears said. “It's so easy for first-year students to get off track and lose sight of why they are here, but when you have a faculty member who is as involved in your LLC as UNH offers, it provides a successful example for students to follow.”

Sears is now a resident assistant in Forest Hills, and she offers these tips to members of the Class of 2017 so they can get the most out of their LLC experience:

1.    Read. Read your e-mails; read bulletin boards; read posters. They have information that you need.
2.    Get involved. If you don't try it, you'll never know.
3.    Your LLC is there for you. Use it like a community because it is one.
4.    Go to the programs. They are a great way to get involved.
5.    Have fun. It sounds simple, but college should be about you. Do what you want. 

“I made Dean's List both semesters, a goal I hadn't realized I was reaching for,” she said. “But the LLC gave me a group of people who were taking similar classes and had similar worries, which helped me feel more a part of the school and the LLC community.”

In a survey of the students who took part in the LLC program last year, nearly 90 percent indicated that they would recommend incoming students participate in the LLC program. 

The first three LLCs were introduced in 2007, with a total of 60 students. For 2013-14, there are 505 students enrolled in 15 programs.  This fall, UNH is introducing four new LLCs: pre-law, health services, first in the family – for students who are the first in their family to attend college – and the community of arts for students from any major who have a passion for the arts.

UNH also offers LLCs for students majoring in marine biology, human services, fire science, business, engineering, forensic science, music and law and investigation. There are also LLCs for students in the honors program, for ROTC and for those with a passion for health and wellness.

“Engineering coursework is hard and demands students put in considerable time and effort,” said Maria-Isabel Carnasciali, advisor and assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “The engineering LLC experience facilitates access to peer tutors, access to team members to work on class projects and networking opportunities with faculty, upperclassmen and industry executives.  We’ve seen that students who participate in their first year tend to be more engaged and support each other through their entire UNH experience.”

The robust level of faculty and staff involvement in the University’s LLCs is fast becoming a model other universities follow. Sylvester Allen, coordinator for Living Learning Communities at UNH, Prajer and Rebecca Kitchell, director of residential student advocacy and educational partnerships, have been asked to present a workshop on “Bridging the Gap between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs” at a national conference in October.

“Our faculty and staff are so willing to be part of the experience,” Sylvester said. “They create very strong communities within the University.”

Added Prajer, “Faculty involvement in the LLCs inspires active learning, provides support to the first-year student population, enhances residential life and creates meaningful mentoring opportunities.” 

Mark Sylvester ’16, a fire science major, said his LLC members bonded from the start. “We all got together and jammed into one dorm room,” he said. “We picked out a couple firefighting movies like Ladder 49 and watched them all together, talking about our own fire departments at home throughout the movies.  It was a great way to get to know each other because we all shared a common interest in the fire service.”

LLC advisor Wayne Sandford, instructor of fire science and former fire chief in East Haven, provided Campus Emergency Response Team training to LLC members on Sunday nights. When Hurricane Sandy struck and the West Haven Fire Department needed assistance, five LLC students became part of the department’s storm response. Most important, said Sylvester, was Sandford’s presence.

“It was not only helpful to talk to the chief, but it was fun,” he said. “The LLC truly sets you up for success in your first year at UNH.”

Sylvester’s tips for first-year students?   
1.    Get involved early.
2.    Learn to plan your day.  Make time for your studies and your friends.
3.    Don't be afraid to ask questions.
4.    Leave your residence hall room.
5.    Use the quiet study or the library. 
6.    Remember your primary reason for being at UNH is to get a good education.

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