In last week’s discussion, we studied the concept of “ideology.” In groups, we were asked to come up with examples of ideologies pertaining either to the nation, region, The University of Michigan, or an organization within the University. Assigned the last option, someone in our group mentioned the Michigan Learning Communities as an institution that is believed to create a sense of community for first year students especially. As a current member of one of these groups, the Michigan Research Community, I have spent the last few days really thinking of why I applied to be a part of this community and what I have noticed about its organization and goals since coming here a few months ago.
Ideology is defined as “the stories we tell ourselves that make our lives meaningful, fun, valuable, special, or better than others.” I have compiled a list of my ideology of the Michigan Learning Communities based off my experience and why they create a sense of community for incoming freshman that makes our college years unique and memorable.
1. Ease Adjustment from High School to College Life: No matter the size of the high school incoming college students attended, becoming a part of a graduating class tallying over 6,000 can be intimidating. Through the learning communities, students are one of only a fraction of that number, starting at 100, in the program. Due to this small number, there is much more interaction and bonding. For instance, in the Michigan Research Community, each student is assigned to a Peer Mentor group, consisting of only five freshman and a second year leader. Every month, a new activity is planned, such as a fun scavenger hunt to incorporate teamwork. Having these events organized by students who have been in our shoes is really comforting because it is easier to make this big transition with others while at the same time seek advice from someone who has been there.
2. Connect With People Who Have Similar Interests: Almost all of the Michigan Learning Communities have a living component, which means all members reside in the same residence hall. All of these communities are centered around a common theme, such as research, science, or art. From the day you move in to your dorm room, you are surrounded by people who share similar interests and goals. It becomes easier to meet people before classes even start because each and every person is living in this hall to learn about the same special topic as you. By having the ability to connect with fellow classmates right off the bat, the college experience becomes more welcoming and enjoyable.
3. Create Friendships By Taking Classes With Your Neighbor: Members of a certain Michigan Learning Community not only live in the same hall, but they also enroll in classes that are only offered to those in the community. Whereas in a large lecture hall, the class consists of students from all years and locations across campus, many of whom you will never talk to, the classes offered by the Michigan Learning Communities make it simple to get to know everyone in the program. Since we are all assigned the same work, the convenience of living just a few doors down from classmates allows for frequent collaboration and the opportunity to study together right in the residence hall. By promoting interaction with your peers, we are able to create bonds with each other, not just academically, but socially.
4. Gives Students a Glimpse into the Future: The specialization the Michigan Learning Communities offer lets students gain first hand experience in a topic that relates to what they see themselves doing after college. For example, a student who is considering grad school might join the Michigan Research Community to see exactly how a dissertation or project evolves over time. Working alongside a researcher, while assisting in data collection or lab tests, truly is the best way to gain an understanding of what is a possibility after undergraduate school.
In closure, by looking at the ideology of the Michigan Learning Communities, it is arguable that they create a welcoming environment that makes a student’s college experience more beneficial. As a current member, I find this to be true and would not have made friendships or gain research insight as quickly as I did without this community.