When freshmen arrive on most college campuses, they often find themselves immersed in a whirlwind of new courses, new expectations and new people. For many, it can be disconcerting to be out of family and community context, even if it had been growing little stale. At SNU, we help freshman make a good transition to a great university by connecting them with other freshman who share common interests. For some students that happens in the context of athletic teams, choirs and bands, or in the context of professional internship groups (ie. Ministry Interns). For many students, it happens in one of our Thematic Learning Communities.
An SNU thematic learning community is made up of a group of faculty and students who study together in a set of courses themed to a common interest. For instance, our inaugural learning community, developed through a funding partnership with the Kirkpatrick Foundation, was themed around the topic of arts and culture. Students who had enjoyed participating in creative arts, literature and the like joined with faculty teaching foundational classes required in SNU's general education program. These faculty worked together to create a set of paired courses (Rhetoric I + Aesthetic Analysis (Fall) and Rhetoric II + Christian Faith and Life (Spring)) into which they integrated mutually supporting assignments that addressed the theme of arts and culture. In addition to attending these classes together, students and faculty also attended enriching activities (concerts, plays, etc) together and designed and participated in a service project at a local underserved elementary school. To see examples of student work created by arts and culture learning community students, browse the Arts and Culture 2009 Learning Community Portfolios.
This program achieves two major goals: connecting students with one another, faculty and the campus life and ethos and providing students with interesting and relevant courses that put them on the path to academic and social success in college.
In the Fall 2011 semester, SNU faculty also began offering learning communities oriented to students interested in environmental stewardship, community leadership, and health and well-being.