University of Vermont

Student Success and Satisfaction

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Residentially Based Learning Task Force (RBLTF)

Residentially Based Learning at UVM | Task Force Charge
Task Force Members | Task Force Meeting Schedule | Report - April 2011

A Residentially Based Learning Task Force has been formed to review current residentially based learning offerings at UVM and to explore the possible expansion of these offerings.

Generally speaking, residentially based learning communities are intended to blend academic, cultural and artistic activities within residential environments. Research has shown that student participation in learning communities and similar educationally purposeful activities is positively linked to student engagement and overall satisfaction (Zhao & Kuh, 2004). There is also evidence that these types of communities enhance student learning and persistence, and even enrich faculty professional lives (Tinto, 2003).

A wide variety of residential learning models exist, each of which offers varying levels of academic engagement. Themed floors, freshman interest groups (FIGs), living-learning programs, faculty in residence programs and residential colleges are just some examples.

A more comprehensive list of residential learning communities can be found on the Residential Learning Communities International Registry Website:

Residentially Based Learning at UVM
UVM offers students a variety of residentially based learning opportunities, including special interest housing options, Living/Learning Center programs, Residential Learning Communities and the Honors Residential College.

The Department of Residential Life has offered a variety of special interest housing options for students. An outdoor experience community, a live music floor, substance-free living, affinity group housing (such as the Rainbow Cottages for LGBTQA students), and floors designed to provide career advice or academic support for at-risk students are just some examples of the types of communities that have been offered in the past. In recent years Residential Life has phased out most of these special interest housing options as the number of Residential Learning Communities has grown at UVM.

The Living/Learning Center - which opened in 1973 and remains one of the country’s longest-running living-learning communities - supports residentially-based academic, educational, cultural and artistic programs. In a typical year the Center sponsors 40 theme-based programs led by students, faculty or staff. Program proposals are solicited annually. Each program enrolls between 12 and 30 students, all of whom live together by program in suites. Typical program activities include program meetings and classes, field trips, program dinners, guest speakers, films, and discussions.  Several programs are sponsored by academic units and offer academic credit. Living/Learning is home to the College of Arts & Sciences’ Integrated Humanities Program, Integrated Social Sciences Program, and the new Integrated Fine Arts Program. The facility includes several faculty apartments for program faculty, classrooms and meeting spaces, several art and music studios, a gallery, administrative and office spaces, and dining spaces. Admission is by application and can be competitive.

Residential Learning Communities (RLCs) are the newest residentially based learning option at UVM.  Each community is designed to achieve the same goals, for one, to make it possible for students who share common interests and ideals to live together in an environment where each student can feel part of a true community; and two, to engage the whole student by joining together in one place the intellectual, ethical, and social aspects of college life. In addition, each residential community works diligently to 'triangulate' the opportunity it offers, by linking each of its students not only to his or her particular learning community but to the larger world beyond that of the campus. In this way, students, faculty, and staff are given the opportunity to interact outside the classroom, the lab, or the office, joining campus learning with life experiences to thereby encourage the pursuit of knowledge as a lifetime activity.

RLCs have been developed around themes that are consonant with one or more of UVM’s overall strategic goals, and each community has specific learning goals and activities that have been tailored to help students achieve these learning goals. The Global Village at Living/Learning and the GreenHouse at University Heights South – opened to students in the fall of 2006. The Health & Wellness RLC on Redstone Campus opened in 2007, and the Arts Initiative at Living/Learning opened in 2008. The Dewey House for Civic Engagement has been in pilot stage at the Living/Learning Center for the past two years. Pending final details, we plan to relocate Dewey House to the Harris-Millis complex next year as the next Residential Learning Community.

RLCs are larger in size – presently ranging from 120 to 280 students – are led by half-time faculty or staff directors with additional administrative support. New students in each RLC are required to take a one-credit seminar that is designed to familiarize students with the RLCs topical area. RLCs typically have affiliated faculty, staff and community members who mentor students.

The Honors College brings together outstanding students in a residential learning community. An engaging curriculum, close interaction with faculty, an emphasis on undergraduate research, and interesting co-curricular activities combine to shape the Honors College experience. Student involvement in the Honors College doesn't stop when classes end for the day. The college's on-campus housing allows students to extend their classroom discussions and research — not to mention, fun and socializing — into the evening. Honors students are strongly encouraged to live in housing designated for them in one of the university's newest residence hall, University Heights North, which is located near the Living/Learning Center and athletics facilities.

Task Force Charge
The charge of the Residentially Based Learning Task Force is to:

  • Learn about current residentially based learning communities at UVM.
  • Review the qualitative and quantitative assessment data for years one and two of the Global Village and GreenHouse Residential Learning Communities.
  • Explore how other institutions implement residentially based learning. Utilize research about student learning and engagement to explore opportunities for expanding residentially based learning options at UVM, including (but not necessarily limited to):
    • Expanding the number of Residential Learning Communities.
    • Adding a new, non-themed Residential College.
    • Creating new “curricular learning communities,” possibly by integrating a residential component with the proposed core curriculum to enhance the first-year experience.

Task Force Members
The task force is comprised of members representing faculty, staff and students and is chaired by John Sama, Director of Living/Learning and Residential Learning Communities.

    • Ann Barlow, Arts Initiative RLC Director, L/L Photo Co-op and Gallery, 656-7787
    • Jonathan Castillo, Student, Former Co-director of L/L Ecological World Cuisines program            
    • Christina Olstad, Assistant Director of Residential Life , 656-3434
    • Brian Reed, Associate Provost for Curricular Affairs, 656-2232
    • John Sama, Director of Living/Learning and RLCs (Chairperson), 656-0534

Task Force Meeting Schedule
(Meeting Location: L/L Commons, Room 305)

  • 11/5/2010 1:30 PM        
  • 11/12/2010 1:30 PM        
  • 11/18/2010 8:15 AM        
  • 12/3/2010 1:30 PM        
  • 12/9/2010 8:15 AM
  • 12/16/2010 8:15 AM 

Last modified May 11 2011 10:45 AM

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