Baylor and Beyond Living-Learning Center encourages diversity among students

Magnolia Freshman Mac Wells and Fair Oaks Ranch Junior Community Leader Luke Ramsey discuss the topic of a paper. Will Barksdale | Multimedia Photographer

By Holly Luttrell | Reporter

The Baylor and Beyond Living-Learning Center (LLC) encourages students to immerse themselves in new cultures both in the local community and internationally.

The program was previously known as the Global Community LLC, and was housed in Brooks Flats. Today, the program has its new name and is housed in the recently renovated North Russell Residence Hall, which opened in the fall of 2015. The hall features common study areas, a game room, a spiritual reflection room, intercultural library resources and a large community kitchen.

Program director Holly Joyner explained that 90 percent of the Living-Learning Center is made up of first year students. Many of these residents are exchange or international students, or individuals who were raised by parents of another culture. These students live in a two-person or three-person room with other residents who may come from a different background, but share a common interest.

“We have something called the neighborhood program. So, when students enter the LLC they can choose to join a smaller group of students called the neighborhood, so it’s kind of a theme within the hall itself,” Joyner said.

The neighborhood program is unique to the Baylor and Beyond LLC in that it allows students to narrow their focus of what topics they engage in. Living-Learning Centers exist to allow students to live with other residents who share their interests. The neighborhood program goes beyond this in allowing students to engage in a topic of study within this greater community interest.

According to the Baylor and Beyond website, there are civic engagement, academic and foreign language themed neighborhoods for students to choose from. The civic engagement groups include local service, social justice and global politics. Academic departments such as art, history, religion and pre-law have neighborhoods, and eight foreign languages are represented in the hall as well. Residents of these neighborhoods can explore local and international communities through the lens of their choice.

Freshman Michael Wardlaw lives in North Russell Hall and participates in the Baylor and Beyond LLC program to hone his abilities as a growing leader.

“I chose the Living-Learning program because I needed to work on my leadership skills,” he said. “I think it will be beneficial to my overall education.”

Residents in the Living-Learning Center are also given various opportunities to actively participate in hall activities. The Baylor and Beyond LLC hosts cultural cooking nights to encounter new types of food and allow students to share their culture with other residents. Faculty members and other students from around campus hold study abroad information meetings, local service projects and outings to events around Waco. Any activity planned is designed to engage students with the communities around them that they may be unfamiliar with.

“Our primary objectives are to get students thinking about beyond Baylor. Whether that’s serving out in the community with one of our urban mission teams or going on our mission trip that we always have in the spring or getting involved by meeting people who are different from them,” Joyner said.

When students learn about a new community of people, they can spread this information to their peers to encourage diversity on campus. Joyner shared her enthusiasm about when a Baylor and Beyond student learns about a new culture and can share it with students who are not part of the program.

“I definitely have students who have never, ever met somebody outside of Texas before or definitely not somebody who has been out of the United States so I think what we are hoping to share is that experience,” she said.

Students can try a new food, serve in a local outreach program or visit a new place and learn about an unfamiliar culture from these experiences. This is the primary goal of the Living-Learning Center. The Baylor and Beyond LLC exists to expose students to various local and international communities to urge them to think outside the university and embrace diversity.

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