From the outside, the three North Crescent Townhouses look like all the others — but this fall, they will be home to St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s two new Living Learning Centers (LLCs), the African/African Diaspora House and the Eco-House.
LLCs are an opportunity to immerse participating students in a particular field of study facilitated by faculty members to create a seamless learning environment between in-class and out-of-class experiences. “The College’s Women in Science House has been around for years, and we are excited to add these two new options to enrich our campus life. Their topics are very timely,” said Joanne Goldwater, associate dean of students and director of residence life.
As the name implies, Living Learning Centers are more than just houses. The LLCs are meant to act as centers for experiential activities in their topic areas. In order to live in an LLC, students apply with specific ideas about the programming contributions they can offer the community. Those who are accepted work together to host one event each month related to their theme. Events can range from potluck dinners to book discussions to helping organize a campus conference. In exchange, these students get to live in a coveted location. In addition, students who live in LLCs receive one academic credit per semester in recognition of their 10-15 hours of service.
Each LLC is supervised by at least one faculty adviser. Jeffrey Coleman (English) and Iris Ford (anthropology) are advising the African/African Diaspora House, with Garrey Dennie (history) as coordinator. Barry Muchnick (environmental studies) is advising Eco-House. “African/African Diaspora House will start with four students and Eco-House will start with eight,” Goldwater noted, “but our hope is that they will grow over time.”
LLCs started on campus in 1993 as “affinity houses.” The number has waxed and waned over the years and is based on student and faculty interests. One of the first affinity houses was the African American Male Legacy House, though it was short lived. The African/African Diaspora House is slated to be more inclusive, and is expected to be more popular on campus as a result. Dennie notes that the house aims to provide a range of socially and intellectually enriching experiences to students which will include, but will not be limited to, culinary exhibitions, musical and other artistic performances, panel discussions, movies, plays, and invited lectures.
As for Eco-House, Muchnick sees it as part of a growing movement at the College to enhance eco-friendly options in all aspects of campus life, including the recent addition of an environmental studies major. “I am so excited that St. Mary’s students will now have another opportunity to put sustainability theory into practice,” Muchnick noted. “An eco-friendly Living Learning Center allows us to embody our stewardship values in service to the well-being of our campus and the extended biotic community.”
St. Mary’s College has long been favored by students for its liberal arts curriculum and tight-knit social scene. “Putting people who have a common interest together so they can learn from one another and support each other, and build a seamless academic life experience is a fabulous opportunity for all involved!” Goldwater said. “It helps the programs, the students and the faculty. It’s a win-win-win.”