There is no such thing as the “perfect” roommate, but the addition of Residential Learning Communities at Campbell University next fall may — in the very least — make a “great” roommate easier to find for incoming students.
Residential Learning Communities, or RLCs, are groups of students who live on the same residence hall floor and have common majors, career goals or personal interests. The idea is that students will find support amongst their peers in these groups and will not only succeed academically, but build stronger social bonds as well. According to Rebekah Gardner, director of resident life and housing, the initiative is part of President J. Bradley Creed’s strategic plan to not only improve retention and graduation rates, but also build a stronger on-campus community.
“Dr. Creed experienced RLCs at other institutions, and he wanted to bring this idea to Campbell,” Gardner said. “Already, we see that students who live on campus have elevated GPAs; and of the students who withdrew from Campbell last semester, only 15 were residential. It shows that when students live on campus, they’re more connected. It has a huge impact.”
Assistant Director of Resident Life Shea Roll said the RLCs at Campbell will only improve GPAs, retention rates and graduation rates, if trends from other universities are any indication. Roll experienced a similar programs as an undergrad at the University of Missouri Columbia and grad student and area coordiantor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas.
“I went out of state when I was an undergrad, and I truly did not know anybody on my campus,” she said. “The RLC I stepped into was one for women in journalism. In that group, I found a core group of friends — I actually attended the wedding of one just a year ago. We still keep in touch. So I have first-hand experience that this can impact a student. I don’t know if I would have stayed at my university if I didn’t have that.”
Gardner said each RLC will consist of a community of 10 male and 10 female students, a community mentor, a resident advisor and a peer mentor. The 20 students will take a class together within the first semester and will be involved in various events and service projects together throughout their first year.
Campbell will introduce four pilot RLCs for the 2019-2020 academic year:
- GEMS (Generating Excellence in Math and Science) for first-year students, led by Stephanie Matthews, professor of biology. The students will reside in two Sauls Hall suites (one male, one female), and the class component will include CUFS 100 with a focus on biology and student development.
- LEADS (Leadership Experience through Academic Development and Service) for first-year students, led by Matt Lengen, director of First-Year Experience. The students will reside in two Strickland Hall suites (one male, one female), and the class component will include CUFS 100 (as normal) and a LEADs 100 class as a separate course.
- RISE (Residents Interested in Science and Engineering) for first-year students, led by Lee Rynearson, professor of engineering. The students will reside in two Sauls Hall suites (one male, one female) and the class component will include ENGR 100 freshman seminar course.
- Honors Program RLC, for upperclassmen students admitted into the Honors Program, led by Sherri Truffin, the program’s director. Students will reside in Jones Hall.
Roll said the key to the program’s success will be committed faculty members. She said Matthews, Lengen, Rynearson and Truffin — who’ll lead the University’s first four communities — were the ones knocking on her door to be involved and get the program started at Campbell.
“They’re really excited about this,” she said. “At the end of the day, if the faculty aren’t invested and engaged, it’s not going to be successful.”