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Residential Communities Provide Lasting Impact for Students

Hundreds of residential students at the University of South Florida live in smaller, tight-knit clusters known as Living and Learning Communities (LLCs). The program, led by USF Housing & Residential Education's Academic Initiative's team, gives students an opportunity to promote their learning alongside their peers while also benefiting from opportunities that extend beyond the classroom.

“It’s a fun way to go to class, come back and study together,” said Juliana Dunlap, a business analytics senior from the Bulls Business Community (BBC).

The LLCs house either academically-focused or interest-based student groups that reflect USF’s diverse student population. Students come from as many as 12 different countries, 33 states and have an average grade point average of 3.47. Nearly a decade ago, the Honors College was the first to establish an LLC with the goal of enhancing academic growth and interaction with faculty. Last year four new programs launched to support additional interests. There are 18 LLCs throughout the Tampa and St. Pete campuses that include communities such as STEM, pre-health, business, engineering, global citizenship, American Sign Language, ROTC and LGBTQ+/A.

Students lead LLC goals. Each year new students enjoy the success of previous cohorts. Ninety-five percent of first-year students return as leaders who fine-tune the program as peer mentors or resident assistants. Returning students offer immediate access to broader aspects of campus life such as experience with career services and special interest groups.

“We’re all here to help each other,” said Sebastian Irizarry, a chemical engineering major living at the Engineering Living and Learning Community (ELLC). “It’s like a family.”

For freshmen away from home for the first time, the LLC pods provide a strong foundation. All students have advisors/coordinators and tutors that help keep their studies and graduation date on track. They also learn to develop life skills that lead to greater employability.

“Students need that real-world application where they can learn things beyond the books,” said Magdala Saint-Louis, a BBC advisor.
Building professional relationships is encouraged. As a precursor, the program offers confidence-building activities that allow students to practice career skills.

Building professional relationships is encouraged. As a precursor, the program offers confidence-building activities that allow students to practice career skills.

“I’m very shy, so if I weren't in this program, I definitely would not have branched out and gotten to talk to other people,” said Erika Miller, a finance sophomore and BBC resident.

Living and Learning Communitity students from the Bulls Business Community study together.

“I remember her [Erika’s] first presentation, she couldn’t get through it without stopping, she was so anxious, her face was turning red,” said Saint-Louis, Erika’s advisor. “I don’t see that same person anymore- to me she’s grown in a lot of different ways.”

The BBC hosts several activities, such as improvisation games where they practice talking about their career goals. Monthly networking events with local executives compliment the program.

Improvisation classes compliment the Bulls Business Living and Learning Community

“The BBC breakfast is a great one because you just roll out of bed, put your business professional clothes on, go grab some breakfast with some people that are actually doing things that you want to be doing in the future,” said Joseph Medina, a business finance senior.

Students fine-tune what they learn with each other in convenient study areas close to their rooms. They constantly exchange study tips, resources and ideas.

“I’m super passionate about public health,” said Rachel Miller, public health major living in the Pre-Nursing/ Public health LLC. “I love working with pre-nursing students because I get to educate them on public health and try and get them to even minor in it.”

Portrait of Rachel Miller, public health major living in the pre-Nursing/ Public health LLC.

 Leadership is encouraged in tandem with academic success in the LLCs. There’s a “passing of the torch” maintained with each cohort class through its returning students who bridge earlier cohorts with graduates who are now working professionals. These become the long-lasting relationships that are most valuable.

Alondra Soto, chemical engineering senior and resident assistant, already has a full-time job offer waiting for her after graduation. A friend from a previous year helped set up the job interview. “It definitely makes senior year less stressful, I can now just concentrate on classes,” said Soto.

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