With New Living, Comes New Learning: LLP Continues to Expand

By Whitney Harder

(Sept. 9, 2015) — With a new era in student living well underway on the University of Kentucky campus, so too is a new era of learning. This is an era that fosters learning beyond the classroom — in residence halls, during a community service project, on a field trip, and even in a campus courtyard — and recognizes that success not only comes from good grades, but from connecting with a network of peers.

This semester, two new communities in the UK Living Learning Program (LLP), LEXengaged and STEMCats, moved onto campus, joining 17 other LLP communities. More than 2,200 UK students live and learn in these communities.

"I joined the LEXengaged community because, as a student from out of state with no family history in Lexington, I felt it would be a great way for me to become involved in what will be my home for the next four years," said Richard Simon, a freshman from St. Louis, Missouri.

LEXengaged was created for freshmen with an interest in community service, leadership development and social justice. The first cohort of 75 students will enjoy exposure to the Lexington community and its unique assets and needs; exploration of how they can serve as leaders and change agents in their communities; and engagement in service and leadership opportunities that meet their diverse interests.

"I hope to gain a better understanding of what makes Lexington the city that it is today as well as trying to help improve the community through volunteer work," Simon said.

Located in Champions Court I, the community focuses on engagement, service learning and social justice. LEXengaged is directed by Rosie Moosnick, a visiting lecturer in the College of Arts and Sciences; Lynn Phillips, assistant professor of geography in the college; Kristina Ricketts, associate extension professor of community and leadership development in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; and Bryan Hains, associate professor of community and leadership development. Bringing together each of these areas, course topics will include volunteering in the city, eating locally, cultural economics, city government and town relations, regional identity, economic planning and much more.

"I think we come from different perspectives — as a sociologist I am always thinking about race, class, and gender — and Lynn, as a geographer, alerts me to physical and spatial relationships that I would overlook, but regardless of our background and whether from A&S or Ag, we are all committed to knowing and being involved in our community and sharing that knowledge and passion with our students," Moosnick said.

In the 2015-16 school year, LEXengaged students will work with William Wells Brown Elementary School students and will also "reflect on Lexington as the Horse Capital," looking at the horse community from the perspective of African-American jockeys from the past, women in the industry, high stake holders and animal welfare advocates, among others. Students will tour the North American Racing Academy, the first jockey school in the U.S.; as well as The Thoroughbred Center; Claiborne Farm, which was home to Secretariat; and Ashford Stud, home to Coolmore stables, an international racing team with facilities in Australia and Ireland.

"LEXengaged students will be exposed to an array of difference-makers in Lexington and will be equipped to understand how our city — and likely, their hometowns, too — deals with many of its social issues," Phillips said.

Living on North Campus, LEXengaged students will be close to many classrooms, Memorial Coliseum, Rupp Arena, downtown Lexington, the UK Bookstore, the Singletary Center for the Arts and many eclectic shops and restaurants on South Limestone. LEXengaged students will also have many perks within the residence hall, which opened in August 2014. In addition to the two-bedroom suites, Champions Court I also provides common areas designed for building community within the hall. Study spaces, in which faculty members can plan programming, as well as classrooms within the residence halls provide ideal spaces for students to learn where they live.

STEMCats, sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and directed by UK Department of Biology Chair Vincent Cassone, was launched to increase retention of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors at UK and prepare students for STEM and medical careers. STEMCats began programming with its first cohort of students last year, but moved into its residential home in Woodland Glen IV in August.

“As the next step in improving retention and a sense of community for our UK STEMCats students, we are excited to inaugurate the STEMCats Living Learning Program in a state-of-the-art dormitory at Woodland Glen IV," Cassone said. "We hope this community will form a basis for life-long friendships as well as productive academic careers.”

Key components of the LLP, open to first year students and Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) transfer students, include authentic research experiences, pre-fall "FastTrack" courses and a STEM exploration course. The community is made up of 227 students living in Woodland Glen IV, as well 54 freshmen living elsewhere who were invited to participate.

Woodland Glen IV opened last month as one of the university's newest residence halls with two-bedroom suites, study rooms on each floor, recreation rooms and a community kitchen. Residing on South Campus, most STEMCats will be minutes away from The 90, a new dining and student support facility, William T. Young Library, The Study, Blazer Cafe, and the Johnson Center.

Both new LLPs are offered by the UK College of Arts and Sciences and supported by numerous other colleges and departments. The College of Arts and Sciences, in partnership with other colleges such as the College of Fine Arts; College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; College of Pharmacy; College of Medicine; and BCTC, now offers four LLPs, including Wired with 90 freshmen and 19 sophomores living in Champions Court II and Greenhouse with 45 students living in Woodland Glen II. In fall 2016, the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Fine Arts will open the Creative Arts LLP in Limestone Park I, part of the 1,141 bed, $83.9 million investment opening next fall on UK's North Campus.

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