Onondaga Community College: Living Learning Community

Roger Mirabito
Member Spotlight

It’s crunch time on campus at Onondaga Community College (OCC). Spring semester final exams are just over a week away. In Professor Kristen Costello’s Microeconomics (ECO 204) class she’s discussing final project options with students. “You can do either a paper or a presentation,” Costello said. “If you choose a presentation you can do so as an individual or in a group of up to three people.”

Costello is holding class in the lounge of one of the college’s four residence halls. This particular residence hall is the home of Business majors who reside in one of the college’s Living Learning Communities (LLC). An LLC provides students who share common educational, social, or extracurricular interests the opportunity to live together. Programs are designed around specific majors or content areas. Students become heavily connected with faculty and staff and take advantage of opportunities to explore career paths and build their resumes through activities both on and off campus.

The LLC concept results in students who are more engaged on campus. “All of these students are very active in the Business Club. All of the leadership positions are filled by them,” said Costello. “They are also active in the residence halls helping with orientation activities for students in both this LLC and others.”

During the 2015-2016 academic year, the Business LLC included 24 students who shared suite-style rooms in four groups of six. Students enjoyed the opportunity to live together and work together. “If one of us was ever struggling there was always someone nearby who could help,” said Maison Gladue, a Business Administration major from Lakeshore High School in Angola. “With everyone working on the same subjects, it was so easy to relate back to each other and work together.”

Luchana Jackman, a Business Administration major from Brooklyn found the LLC created both a great learning and social environment. “I didn’t know anyone when I came here,” Jackman said. “People in the group really engaged you. You communicated with them, worked together, and built great friendships.”

The LLC concept started in four-year colleges. OCC is believed to be the first community college in the nation to utilize the strategy. Dr. Cathy Dotterer is OCC’s Executive Director of Housing and Campus Services. She’s overseen the implementation of LLCs on campus and is pleased with the program’s first two academic years. “The communities have shown positive results in both resident satisfaction and retention in housing. Students have also told us LLCs have helped their transition to college both academically and socially and with learning outside the classroom.”

The future is bright for LLCs on the OCC campus. In the 2016-2017 academic year, the number of communities will nearly double to include 412 students. More growth is forecast for the following year. The long term plan is to have all of the nearly 900 residence hall students enrolled in LLCs.

Roger Mirabito is the Communications Coordinator at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, NY.

Opinions expressed in Member Spotlight are those of the author(s) and/or submitting college and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.