By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing
Students who move into the new residence hall on the Sarasota-Manatee campus this fall will have an opportunity to live in an inaugural Living Learning Community and gain an extra edge in their studies and in their preparation for their post-college lives.
Living Learning Communities, or LLCs, which at USF are now found at both the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses, are residential communities that group students into a cohort of peers with similar interests related to business, education and other majors or themes. Students accepted to the new LLC will live in proximity to each other — for example, along the same hallway — in the new six-story student center and residence hall at Sarasota-Manatee that will open in August.
Joining an LLC “says you want to become a professional with that extra edge,” said Cheryl Ellerbrock, Sarasota-Manatee campus dean for the College of Education. “You want to be able to learn not just in your classroom, not just experience campus life by having a residential experience, but you want to see these blend together in meaningful and purposeful ways.”
Technically, there will be three Living Learning Communities: The Bulls Business LLC, the Education LLC and the Judy Genshaft Honors LLC.
However, the new residence hall is providing campus deans — Ellerbrock, as well as Dean Joni Jones of the Muma College of Business and Assistant Dean Cayla Lanier of the Judy Genshaft Honors College — the chance to develop an interdisciplinary program reflecting the offerings and opportunities unique to students at a smaller campus like USF Sarasota-Manatee and to provide them with more well-rounded college experience.
The deans envision offering students in the LLCs an array of programs and experiences, such as special events and opportunities for internships, designed to complement and perhaps expand their academic interests.
"By bringing targeted, focused academic content that's relevant to a population of students who live together, we're able to help them forge social connections outside of class, as well as to relate what they're learning in class to real world life experiences," Lanier said. “The idea is iron sharpens iron. ... They're able to forge their common interests and weave them into their holistic college experience.”
Who ARE Living Learning Communities For?
What kind of student might benefit from joining an LLC at USF Sarasota-Manatee?
It might be a biology major in the Honors College with an idea for starting a prosthetics company who would benefit from having a mentor in the College of Business or in the business community. It might be an education student seeking a similar connection with the Sarasota-Manatee community as they prepare for the rigors of being a new teacher.
Or it might be an incoming freshman worried that social distractions that can come with living on campus might interfere with their studies. The Living Learning Communities, which will be open to undergraduate and graduate students, would give them a built-in study group and other support from peers with similar interests and goals.
“So, in terms of who is it for? I think it's for any student,” Lanier said.
There will be programs — for example, dinners or other events with business executives and school districts officials — designed specifically for business, education or Honors College students, but all students in the LLCs would be able to attend.
“My students can benefit by pushing out into the community to understand the latest business trends. They're preparing the next generation of employees for those businesses,” Ellerbrock said. “The critical thinking that's in the Honors College and the focus on service — I would love for my education majors to be able to rub shoulders with that kind of mindset.”
The goal is to recruit at least 30 students, or 10 for each LLC, but more will be welcome. Students, including those who are undecided about their majors, can apply to join an LLC as part of the housing application process.
LLC members eligible for extra scholarshipS
LLC students will be eligible for academic scholarships, in addition to the housing scholarships being offered to all residents of the new building. Also, membership fees for the LLCs will be waived during the 2024-25 academic year.
Students will be expected to be active participants in Living Learning Community-sponsored programs.
Jones promised that the experience would pay off for students in many ways. She already is fundraising to support business-related programs, like etiquette dinners to equip students with the speaking and other “soft skills” many employers tell her are missing in many of the recent graduates they hire.
“If nothing else, they study together for their exams,” Jones said. “You’re going to make lifelong friends because you’re living and learning together.”
For more information on how to support the Bulls Business LLC, contact Jones or Kaitlyn Kramer Reeves, associate director of development at USF Sarasota-Manatee, at 941-359-4206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.