University of Vermont

Living/Learning Center

Faculty/Staff-Designed Programs


Residentially Based Learning Communities


NOTE:  This proposal follows the format that has traditionally been used to submit proposals for Living/Learning Center programs.  The current guidelines for submitting a residentially based learning community course are somewhat different.  We share this sample proposal with you to give you a sense of the elements that can be included in a course proposal that integrates residential components into a course.



GEOL 005/BOT 095

GEOL 096/BOT 096




Dept. of Geology



Dept. of Botany



We propose a two-semester science program entitled "The Ecology and Geology of the Lake Champlain Basin".  This program, offered through the Living Learning Center is designed primarily for first year and second year students.  We will allow a maximum of seven sophomores into the program.  The program will consist of two courses, GEOL005/BOT 95 in the fall semester for 4 credits (applicable as a laboratory science), and GEOL/BOT 96 in the spring semester for 1 credit. In the fall semester, students will be introduced to basic concepts of ecology, geology, and natural resources, using the Lake Champlain Basin as a focal point.  This component of the program will be based primarily upon field activities.  Lectures will be used to introduce scientific principles and information relevant to the field-work and to discuss scientific methodology.  Grades will be based upon papers and presentations. The spring semester course will be a seminar series (plus several field trips) for 1 credit. This seminar series is designed to introduce students to the diversity of research activity and interests within the basin. It also provides continuity of association for advising purposes as well as maintaining program identity and cohesion.







______________________________: Chair; Dept. of Geology



______________________________: Chair; Dept. of Botany



______________________________: Dean; College of Arts and Sciences






The primary pedagogical goal of the proposed program is to provide students with an integrated perspective of natural sciences, rather than the compartmentalized view frequently resulting from disciplinary, departmental or collegiate boundaries. When examining natural ecosystems such fragmentation often obscures essential interrelationships. In an effort to provide students with a more integrative perspective, we are combining expertise from a variety of disciplines to examine one of Vermont's, and one of UVM's most valuable resources, Lake Champlain and the surrounding watershed. This focus has appeal for several reasons. First, it represents a diversity of ecological, geological, and biological phenomena providing a basis from which to explore many fundamental principles and interactions thereof. Secondly, its proximity to UVM facilitates field studies and excursions, which represent the core of this course. These trips will enable students to observe and investigate, first hand, concepts and principles being discussed in class. Thirdly, one common denominator for almost all UVM students is that they will live in the Champlain Valley for four years. We believe that a basic understanding of the surrounding natural environment will add to their UVM experience. Fourthly, while we are not under the illusion of turning non-scientists into scientists, we believe that the participatory format of this course may be more successful than traditional lecture courses in developing an appreciation for the scientific method, its applications and its limitations. Assignments associated with laboratory activities should enhance research and writing skills for these first year students.

  An ancillary benefit of the proposed course is the development of improved student-faculty interactions early in a student's undergraduate program.  The field-oriented nature of this course, the low student-faculty ratio and the project emphasis will provide greater continuity in student-faculty association than is generally possible in a lecture course or twice yearly advising meetings. As part of the TAP program this format will provide for more effective advising during the critical first year.


  The major program objectives are to satisfactorily address the student needs identified in the preceding section. Specifically we hope to:

  a. provide students with a heightened awareness of the environment in which they will spend the next several years

  b. introduce students to a variety of scientific disciplines in order to counteract the (perceived) compartmentalization of science sometimes resulting from administrative subdivisions

  c. to develop an appreciation for the complexity of environmental/ecosystem interactions

  d. develop an appreciation for the scientific method through participatory activities.

  e. develop research, writing and quantitative skills useful in future academic activities

  f. improve the quality of student-faculty associations for first-year students.



  In order to address the identified student needs and accomplish the desired program objectives our Living Learning Program will be offered as a cross-listed 4 credit course in the fall semester (GEOL 005/BOTANY 95) and a 1 course in the spring semester (GEOL/BOTANY 96).  The fall semester course will emphasize scientific principles applied to the ecology, geology and hydrology of the Lake Champlain basin.  Laboratories will be field based, emphasizing observation and interpretation of natural phenomena, and will include sample/data collecting for subsequent  analysis and interpretation. The second semester will consist of a 1 credit seminar series designed to explore and expand on the topics discussed during the first semester. In addition, the "Living" component of Living Learning program has been elusive other than a general communality of interest and assignments.  Group projects and peer editingof writing assignments, as well as several social activities, have attempted to address this problem.



I.   Classroom: required for the regularly scheduled class meetings on Tuesday and Thursday

II.  UVM Melosira: required for three half days; time to be arranged with the boat captain

III. Computer facilities: required for word processing, spreadsheet manipulation of laboratory data, and systems' dynamics modeling; scheduling of L/L C facilities will be coordinated through the director's office, scheduling of Academic Computing facilities will be scheduled through appropriate persons and facilities in the Geology Dept. will be made available as required

IV.  Laboratory facilities: Laboratory facilities will be available, as required, in the Geology Department. Because the labs are primarily field based the need for these facilities during the fall semester should be minimal.

V.   Vehicular transportation: will be scheduled through the Geology Dept. whenever possible and through outside vendors when necessary. Estimated mileage = 1000 miles (primarily field trips during the fall semester, but with some transportation requirements associated with research projects in the spring semester).

VI.  Airplane charter: seven two-hour rentals in the fall semester so that each student will have the opportunity to obtain an overview of the geomorphology of the Lake Champlain basin





Certainly a difficulty in past years when this program has been offered has been the recruitment of first-year students.  This is the result of academic advising being conducted separately from Living Learning recruitment, and from the fact that this course draws students from all colleges, although recently (as part of the TAP program) most students have come from A&S. Traditional recruitment activities have included:


I. Course description listed in STRAIGHT TALK under both Geology and Botany


II. Course description materials distributed with Living Learning Center materials


III. Letters sent to incoming first year students discussing the objectives and activities of this course


IV. Participation by on of the faculty program directors (Drake) in various orientation and summer registration activities


V. Development of a program web page linked to LLC so that prospective students can clearly understand the nature and requirements of the course


Past experience suggests that recruitment strategies III and IV are the most effective. In addition we are requesting support for an undergraduate program coordinator who would live in one of the suites. This individual would assist in coordinating the "Living" and "Learning" components of the program as well as assist in developing and organizing the seminar series during the spring semester.





This program is limited to 21 participants because of the capacity of the Melosira. Balance of women and men is irrelevant. Non-Living Learning students will be accepted if Living Learning participation is less than course capacity. Methods for enhancing the "Living" component of the program will also be discussed with Living Learning administration and tentatively include recruitment of an undergraduate residential advisor.





Evaluation of this program will be accomplished through a student questionnaire, developed by the program directors that will be distributed during the last two weeks of classes in each semester.   In addition, program participants will complete the Living Learning Center evaluation form. Results of all evaluations will be made available to, and discussed, with the director of the Center.  In addition to the written evaluations, we would like to have at least one informal discussion per semester involving student participants, program directors and Living Learning Center administration in order to gain timely feedback regarding program activities.





In order to enhance the "Living" aspect of the program, to provide great continuity between the academic and the residential components of the program, and to improve the extracurricular involvement of both program members and non-program persons, we are requesting support for a student program coordinator.  This individual should be either a past participant in the program or possibly a member of the Field Naturalist Program








Last modified December 08 2010 12:58 PM

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