New ELG topics to integrate social issues with curriculum

By Daniel C. Houston
Staff Writer

Baylor faculty and administrators announced next year’s Engaged Learning Group topics Friday, hoping they can build upon popular established programs to more fully integrate classroom learning and on-campus residential life.

The ELG topics for next year include Medical Sciences, Scriptures and Heritage and Hispanic Families in Transition, Terri Garrett, associate director for academic initiatives, said.

Students in the ELG programs live together in communities in Kokernot Residence Hall, where they have access to common study areas and faculty visitation.

“They began here in 2007 as a means of adding diversity to our Living-Learning Programs,” Garrett said. “It’s one more different type of option where we were seeking to join a student’s academic experience with that of their living experience in a way that would increase a student’s involvement and learning.”

Garrett said having faculty plugged in to the the atmosphere at Kokernot is not just beneficial academically, but also helps students adjust to their new college environment.

“Faculty are very influential on students, and so the opportunity to have faculty that are at or around your residence hall is very comforting for [first-year] students,” Garrett said.

The Medical Sciences ELG will provide students seeking careers in medicine with specialized coursework through the biology and chemistry departments, community events and extracurricular activities, according to a Friday Baylor press release.

Through the Scriptures and Heritage ELG, students will be able to complete both of the university’s required religion courses, Christian Scriptures and Christian Heritage, within the ELG atmosphere. This program is aimed at religion majors.

Dr. Randy Wood, professor and director of the Hispanic Families in Transition ELG, said the program is designed to broaden students’ understanding of the difficulties that primarily Spanish-speaking families experience when trying to assimilate into English-speaking communities.

Wood’s academic program focuses on the struggles of Spanish-speakers in America, and also requires students to go out into Spanish-speaking communities and assist with Learning English Among Friends, an English class for Spanish speakers.

Wood said the first-hand experience allows students to better understand the subject material than they could in a classroom setting alone.

“I think the academy gets a bad rap several times because they say we live in the ivory tower,” Wood said. “When you put legs to something, it becomes real to you.”

Wood said the program has positively affected the lives of Baylor students and Hispanic people outside the Baylor community alike.

“We’re just trying to help people be better parents, get better jobs, and Baylor students are finding out that this is very important, that academics and real-life experiences can go hand in hand,” Wood said.