By Mariah Bennett | Staff Writer
In this year’s U.S. News Best Colleges Ranking, Baylor received a No. 15 ranking in First-Year Experiences. Baylor’s first-year experience success can be seen through the goals of their residence halls, Living-Learning Centers and community leaders.
Rob Engblom, associate director for resident learning at Campus Living and Learning, said the overall goal is to create a sense of belonging.
“[Our goal] is to help students be as successful as possible and really feel welcome within our residential communities,” Engblom said.
Engblom said there are a multitude of opportunities for involvement and styles of community in residence halls.
Dr. Terri Garrett, associate director for academic initiatives at Campus Living and Learning, said 5,200 students are living on campus. Of the first-year students — who are all required to live on campus — 50% live in an LLC. LLCs are communities centered on specific academic programs.
“A living-learning community is a really distinct structured learning environment for students,” Garrett said. “They have an opportunity to live with like-minded students and engage with academic faculty and partners in unique ways. That combination’s very powerful.”
Engblom said there is a variety in both community and living choices on campus to help students acclimate to college life.
Dallas freshman Michaela Akins said that she is having a positive experience in Brooks Flats — the Business and Innovation LLC — and that LLCs are good for students who are clearly focused on their major.
“There’s a lot of people who are out to support me that live in the LLC, like the faculty-in-residence,” Akins said. “Community leaders are always there to talk to me.”
There are seven LLCs on Baylor’s campus. These include Baylor and Beyond, Business & Innovation, Impact, Fine Arts, Leadership, Outdoor Adventure and Science and Health. This line up excludes the Transfer Year Experience Living-Learning Center at University Parks, which will no longer be a community specifically for transfer students beginning in the fall of 2022. This change is due to a lack of new transfer students to the LLC itself, which was caused by the large incoming freshman class according to Austin Morell, who worked as the Transfer Year Experience LLC Program Director. Despite this closing, acclimation tools are available for transfer students at Transfer Student Success, a program at Baylor to guide transfer students into Baylor life.
Winchester, Va., junior Kevin Connor said he chose to transfer to Baylor because of the number of opportunities for transfer students compared to other colleges.
“Part of the reason why I wanted to come to Baylor was the fact that they offered so much to transfer students,” Connor said. “It definitely was part of the reason why I stayed.”
While staying at University Parks, Connor said he enjoyed meeting other transfer students and going to events, such as s’mores nights.
Garrett said these types of on-campus housing experiences have a significant impact on retention of students.
“It helps with social contacts, with academic supports, and it really provides a new home environment for a student who is potentially away from home for the first time,” Garrett said.
Nairobi, Kenya, junior Revina Karani, a second-semester community leader at Brooks Flats, said the role of a community leader is to encourage new residents.
“Our intention in creating those is if you just create a casual setting for them to connect and get to know each other better … you can become friends,” Karani said.
Garrett said a number of students come back to LLCs after their first year because of their positive experience living on campus.
“Because you’re living with so many more people than just a small apartment complex, you’re broadening your perspective and experiences in ways that off-campus life sometimes can’t provide,” Garrett said.