The Challenges and Rewards of a New Learning Community: Humanities House
by Tiffany Touma, Humanities House Resident Assistant
Being the Resident Assistant (RA) of a Learning Community (LC) going into its second year has its challenges and its rewards. The main hurdle of a new LC is the identity of that community. What is Humanities House? What are the goals and hopes of such a community? What I have learned in my experiences with LCs is that each of them has a personality of their own, and the group of students that join, largely define this personality. Residents, especially freshmen and new members, aren’t necessarily aware of how their personalities contribute to the community. They are still learning how to live outside of their home, make new friends while still maintaining good grades, and getting involved. If you ask a resident of any LC what their experience is like, they are more than likely going to reference their new friends first and foremost.
After all, that is what a community achieves. LCs bring together students of different ages, backgrounds, and interests and group them together based on one mutual interest. With Humanities House, this interest can sometimes be vague because “humanities” covers so many different topics and majors. Humanities House does not yet have its identity, but as the young residents learn more about themselves, they actually formulate the community’s identity more and more.
Though this can sometimes be a challenge (what kind of programs should we put on? Will Humanities House retain members? Will it be able to grow?), there is also great reward in helping others discover their identities within a community. I get to learn so much about my residents, and they get to learn about themselves, their fellow members, and the professional team supporting them. Humanities House has a strong and experienced team trying to make it the best LC it can be. However, there is only so much that the team can do. At the end of the day, it is up to the residents to attend programs, help create programs, provide input, explore the class, and, most of all, make friends with each other. Watching this process occur is both daunting and pleasurable. While the team and I put pressure on ourselves to make sure the residents are developing well, the residents are enjoying each other’s company and discovering what exactly a learning community can do for them.
Even though Humanities House is still figuring out what kind of LC we are, the residents have benefited immediately. They may not be able to say exactly why they joined or what they want from the community, but that comes in time. They have overcome the first hurdle of a learning community: community building. Though they may not fully realize it, it is by joining a LC that they were able to make such a tight and large group of friends so quickly. LCs help erase the awkward and terrifying freshmen move-in day experience. The residents have something to start off a conversation with automatically: “So you’re in Humanities House, too? What do you think the class will be like? What interested you about this LC?” Once the residents achieve strong relationships with each other, the only way to go is up.