Learning villages to offer students, faculty a new place to call home

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (May 21, 2009) — A blend of English tradition, Ivy-League example and local originality will shape the way future Tennessee Tech University college students stay involved with the university for a lifetime.
Tennessee Tech will soon invite students to become members of “learning villages.” Often known by other names such as residential colleges or communities, these villages will offer smaller, caring groups led by faculty within the larger community. TTU will be the first public university in the state to offer these communities in which a student can become a lifetime member.
“We hope to enhance student-faculty interaction and extend learning beyond the classroom with this new style of residential living,” said TTU Provost Jack Armistead.
Two years ago, Armistead and Vice President for Student Affairs Marc Burnett formed a team to consider the residential concept originated by England’s Oxford and Cambridge Universities and later adopted by Yale and Harvard.
In Fall 2010, students will be invited to join one of two initial theme-based villages — service or environment. The villages will be based in the New North and South Residence Halls.
Each village, made up of 150-300 individuals, will be open not only to students living in residence halls, but also off-campus and online students as well as TTU faculty and staff members. Over time, villages will develop their own activities and programs, such as intramural sports, debate teams, book clubs and festivals. Strong team identity and traditions follow; villages often adopt team colors, crests, T-shirts and more.
Ann Landini, associate professor of journalism and mass communications at Murray State University, chairs the Council of College Heads at MSU, where this residential concept has been in place for more than a decade.
“We’ve found that these smaller communities increase college pride and promote a level of competition and camaraderie we didn’t have before,” Landini said.
“For instance, each of our residential colleges has an honor society and an intramural team, even a mascot,” she said. “We award a President’s Cup to the best intramural team as well as a President’s Cup to the college with the highest overall grade point average.
“Students have an immediate connection that drastically improves retention and involvement,” added Landini.
Burnett points out that extensive research has shown the living and learning experience pays off in several ways.
“From looking at the research and talking extensively with universities that have successful programs, we’ve learned that engagement and retention goes up, intellectual and cultural life blossoms, and students learn interpersonal skills that last a lifetime,” said Burnett.
TTU’s admissions officers have begun recruiting students to participate in the learning villages program in 2010.

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