Of all the ways for Minnesota State University, Mankato students to get involved on campus, joining a learning community is one that leads students to lifelong connections and academic success. By grouping students with similar majors in the same courses and residential halls, they have the opportunity to learn both in and out of the classroom.
“What students tell us is that the largest benefits are the built-in study groups. Learning community students are pre-enrolled together, so they have the ability to study together. If a student misses class, it’s pretty easy to find someone to catch notes from because you already know 25 other people in your class,” said Jean Clarke, the director of learning communities. “Students in learning communities also have a proven higher GPA.”
Clarke oversees all 18 of MSU’s learning communities, including the programs that continue past first-year involvement.
“We offer second-year learning communities for business, nursing, and elementary education. Three quarters of students continue into second-year communities,” she added.
Currently, MSU students are not required to live in a designated residential hall to be a part of a first year community, a policy that changed due to COVID-19. While the living-learning aspect of the program can be extremely helpful for students, living in a different hall or off-campus does not affect the benefits students can gain from joining a learning community.
“I already had a roommate that wasn’t a part of my community. Even now, one of my [off-campus] roommates is in my learning community,” says sophomore Quinn Ellingson on her experience living outside her learning community. Although she is not in the dorms, she still has all of the same opportunities as the other members of her community who live on campus.
Ellingson is a member of the second, and final, year elementary education community, where focus for the spring semester is set on program applications.
“Working with our coordinator has been a lot of help. She’s helped with every question we’ve ever had about applying, which is helpful because none of our professors go over it a ton. It’s been really nice to have an experienced senior who’s already done this giving us tips and insights,” Ellingson noted.
First year communities have a strong focus on academics and campus involvement.
“The weekly study sessions were the most beneficial. I really enjoyed engaging with the other people in learning communities, and we could work through problems together. We also went to the engagement fairs and housing fairs,” says Aidan Ryan, a freshman in a business community.
“On day one, we went to this learning community event and I met lots of people. Some I haven’t talked to since, but others I’ve since built long standing friendships with,” he added.
Ryan joined the program at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester. However, students can apply through the end of the academic term for second-year, junior, or senior communities.
“We have a research learning community, so if there are folks interested in undergraduate research, it’s a great opportunity. We will work with anybody who has an interest,” says Clarke.
MSU is equipped with 18 learning communities with various majors. (Courtesy Photo)
Write to Alexandra Tostrud at Alexandra.Tostrud@mnsu.edu