New Living Learning Community to provide support for first-generation students

UI Housing and First Generation at Iowa are reintroducing a Living Learning Community for first generation students, and creating a rhetoric course to help these students transition to college.

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Anthony Vazquez

Students walk past at Burge Residence Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

For the 2019-20 academic year, incoming students will have a new Living Learning Community option for first-generation students.

While the program has been an option previously, it has not been offered to students for several years. Next year, it will return with an added academic component, a rhetoric course that all LLC members will take.

The journalism and mass communication LLC will be taken away as an option for students next year.

The first-generation LLC will be located in Burge and can house up to 80 students.

Angela Lamb, an assistant director of academic retention & support for the University College, said it was important to provide an LLC option for first-generation students.

“We had the LLC, and then it went away, [and] not having it left kind of a hole. A lot of people have been asking where to go,” Lamb said. “Supporting first-generation students is at the forefront of a lot of initiatives on our campus right now. For me, bringing this LLC back is another way that we are able to continue working to support first-generation students.”

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Ashley Wells, a lecturer in the Rhetoric Department and a member of the First Gen Task Force, is working to develop the academic component of the LLC.

Wells said rhetoric was a good choice for that component, because it fulfills general-education requirements for all students. The course will have a theme concerning ideas of intersecting identities.

As a first-generation student herself, Wells hopes to create a supportive atmosphere in the rhetoric classroom.

“I didn’t always feel comfortable talking to my professors or asking questions that I thought might sound dumb, that I thought my classmates already knew the answers to. Rhetoric is perfect, because it’s a small class, and the themes we talk about and engage with lead to really great discussions,” Wells said. “They get to know classmates and professors as well, and we can answer those questions for them in low-pressure ways because they don’t have classmates that they think already know.”

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Students will receive extra support from peer tutors from the Success in Rhetoric Center. Tutors who are first-generation students themselves will be placed with rhetoric sections from the first-generation LLC. 

Kate Fazioli

“They [students] can connect better with the tutors,” Lamb said. “A lot of times, people get stuck in this deficient mindset thinking, ‘Oh, you’re first gen, you have all these struggles,’ and that’s really not the narrative that we want to focus on.”

Andrew Beckett, associate dean of the University College, said in an email to The Daily Iowan that providing a first-generation LLC helps the UI to fulfill requirements for Higher Learning Commission’s accreditation. The LLC is based on similar programs at other universities.

Lamb believes the UI is unique in the level of support it provides first-generation students.

“Supporting first-generation students is something this campus is very much committed to,” she said. “Bringing back the LLC is one of the ways we’re trying to show this is really something we’re committed to. A lot of institutions are really struggling for campus buy in; this campus [the support] truly is campus wide.” 

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