December 14, 2015
Communications and Marketing
As the fall semester comes to a close, so too does Saint Anselm College's first course to put the often-heard phrase "living-learning community" into practice. Sixteen of the 18 students in Professor Peter Josephson's politics course live together as well as go to class together, all in the Living and Learning Commons (LLC).
The course, PO348 The Question of Freedom: Living and Learning Liberty, met in the smart classroom on the first floor of the LLC and integrated campus events as part of the curriculum. When registering for the course, students were able to opt out of the housing lottery in order to secure a room in the LLC with their classmates. In addition to attending performances, gallery openings, discussions, and guest speakers, the class also hosted two Freedom Fighters who spoke about human trafficking.
"The mere fact that they are living together is extending class time outside of classroom," says Professor Josephson. "It's making the connection between the way they live and what they're learning stronger and clearer."
"It's been really cool to live in community with other students interested in politics," says sophomore Leah Stagnone, a politics major. "We're always sitting around doing homework together and talking about the class."
The course investigated topics of political liberty, religious liberty, economic freedom, and the moral responsibilities of free persons. In addition to studying political theory, they discussed policy and used philosophy to back up their own modern-day political views.
"We're discussing more than what it means to be free, but also what are absolute truths and what policies reflect them," says Sheila Ramirez '18, who is majoring in politics and social work.
When the students aren't discussing Locke, de Tocqueville or their homework, they're building community relations by attending campus events together, such as a recent concert performance by a fellow student in the class. The next day, class discussion began with an event recap, but moved on from there to community engagement, connecting it all to philosophy and political theory - the course's main topics.
Director of Residential Life and Education Sue Weintraub says that living and studying together, students can become more committed to both the community and the class. Not to mention that "research shows that students do better when faculty are more involved outside of the classroom."
When the LLC was conceived, the goal of the state-of-the-art facility was to bring together academic affairs and residence life, creating a different kind of residential learning community.
"It's a new idea for us, but it's what the classroom will become in the future," says Weintraub.
The building was designed with these goals in mind: providing spaces for students to lounge and study, as well as for discussions and faculty-student meetings. The response by the college community impressed Weintraub and her staff who found the space was quickly accepted and utilized by faculty, staff, and students once the building was open.
"The faculty here really want to enhance the student experience," says Weintraub.
She is excited about what's currently happening at the LLC, including workshops, art exhibitions, guest speakers, and courses, with any number of future possibilities.
"We're on a road to making the Saint Anselm student experience just that much better," she says.