Resource:Leading a Living Learning Community

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Advice for Leading a Living Learning Community

Living Learning Communities (sometimes called Residential Learning Communities, Themed Housing, or Theme Communities) focused on innovation and entrepreneurship are available at many universities. Leading a Living Learning Community requires a great deal of creativity, passion, community building, and patience. Bradley Dice conducted interviews with University Innovation Fellows Jillian Jacques, Corey Brugh, Asya Sergoyan, and Nicole Parker to crowdsource ideas. Their expertise in leading residential communities themed around innovation and entrepreneurship included the following pieces of advice:

  • Build in mentorship and support from older students (whether a Resident Assistant or other community leader). This makes experiences memorable and establishes a lasting sense of connection to the campus.
  • Include residents as co-creators of their experience. Corey told his residents, "You get to define what this experience is going to be," and they responded with ideas for events and active participation. "You can't picture what this experience should be until they tell you what they want and help you design it," he advised.
  • Consider the experience after the Living Learning Community. How should this experience shape the students' college careers? As a leader of the LLC, you are one part of a greater ecosystem.
  • Tell the story of your students, and let their passions be known to the faculty, staff, and administrators who are key partners in the LLC. Work with Admissions, Communications, Residence Life, and other stakeholders who can feature exciting activities from your community.
  • Incorporate your residents' passion for innovation and entrepreneurship alongside the themes suggested by Housing or Residence Life. Ask for their thoughts on a topic to provoke open conversation.
  • "Show your energy and passion. The first-years will feed off of it," recommended Asya.
  • Encourage your residents to have a growth mindset through games or activities that help reduce their fear of failure.
  • Host faculty members or outside speakers. This enables Resident Assistants to focus more on promoting the event and less on the programming itself.
  • Provide consistency through regular events like a weekly/monthly dinner. This can help with the hectic pace of a new student's schedule.
  • Partner with other groups to reduce costs and meet new people. Think of other Living Learning Communities and how you might be able to offer interdisciplinary experiences, share ideas, and learn from one another.
  • Find allies within Residence Life or related academic programs. Having strong relationships with partners is essential to the success of the community.
  • Motivate residents to connect with innovators outside the community. Encourage them to meet faculty, administrators, speakers, and other leaders who can provide support, offer advice, and boost their professional network.

Examples of Living Learning Communities

For a good primer on the range of Innovation & Entrepreneurship LLCs in the United States, there is a useful report by Epicenter in collaboration with the University of Maryland and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Survey Results: Innovation & Entrepreneurship Communities

Listed below are a small sample of Living Learning Communities focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. This list is intended to provide ideas for forming a living-learning community at your college or university. Because these communities combine housing (living) with academic or extracurricular opportunities (learning), they provide a social environment and access to resources that can catalyze creativity and innovation among residents.

The list below documents features, events, opportunities, and requirements listed by the websites located for each community.

Texas A&M's Startup Aggieland

  • Texas A&M's Startup Aggieland hosts a "dormcubator" for 44 freshmen students
  • LLC Features:
    • One-day orientation at the beginning of the semester
    • Free pizza & Red Bull in the dorm for LLC students, 
  • Events/Opportunities:
    • "Fireside chats" with serial entrepreneurs and faculty
    • Partnerships across different colleges
    • Roadtrip tour of tech companies in Austin and San Antonio (one each semester)
    • Non-dilutive seed funding
    • Professional pitch coaching
  • Requirements:
    • 1-hour course in Entrepreneurship for two semesters
    • Participation in 3 Day Startup or Startup 101

Colorado School of Mines' Grand Challenges Community

  • This Colorado School of Mines Theme Learning Community focuses on Engineering Grand Challenges and has seen rapid growth in its first few years as word about the program has spread.
  • LLC Features:
    • A special course for community residents focusing on Engineering Grand Challenges (such as providing clean water)
    • Residents present at the Senior Design Showcase
    • Access to labs and faculty working on Engineering Grand Challenges
    • Residents are co-creators of the experience, and their input shapes what kinds of events are held
  • Example Events/Opportunities:
    • Debate about personalized learning (an Engineering Grand Challenge) in higher education
    • Group attendance at campus events like leadership conferences
    • Rube Goldberg machine building
    • Visiting startups in Denver
    • Brainstorming and prototyping activities (What would you do with $10?)
    • Teatime Tuesdays
    • Some students are attending a summit in Washington, D.C. about Engineering Grand Challenges
  • Requirements:
    • 1-hour course for two semesters combining design, ethics, and problem solving

University of Maryland's Hinman CEOs

  • University of Maryland College Park
  • Aims to "foster an entrepreneurial spirit, create a sense of community and cooperation, and develop ethical leaders"
  • 90 students going through a 2 year program
  • LLC Features:
    • 25% of participants found companies
    • Undergraduate focus
    • On-demand mentorship from staff
  • Events/Opportunities:
    • Weekly speaker series
    • Social events
    • Executives-in-residence
    • Non-dilutive seed funding
    • Internships with local startups
  • Requirements:
    • 12 credits of 4 required courses over 2 years (covering opportunity analysis, marketing high-tech innovations, legal issues facing entrepreneurs, and financial leadership of new ventures)

Clemson University's IDEAS

  • 24 students
  • LLC Features:
    • Open to any major
    • Mentorship from entrepreneurs
    • Incubator space open to any majors
  • Events/Opportunities:
    • Tours of regional incubators/accelerators/economic development organizations
    • Social activities aiming to create "fearless leaders"

University of New Haven's Entrepreneurial Engineering LLC

Arizona State University Polytechnic's Startup Village

  • LLC Features:
    • Houses in a cul-de-sac (not dorms!)
    • Community spaces (a community house) for extra work/event space
  • Events/Opportunities:
    • Weekly meetings with entrepreneurship faculty and mentors
    • Connection with entrepreneurial programs at ASU through Changemaker Central
    • Direct involvement with leading ASU Entrepreneurship efforts (see "Requirements")
  • Requirements:
    • Sophomore standing or higher
    • Become certified through ASU Startup School
    • Plan/lead ASU Startup Weekend
    • Provide office hours for mentoring other students
    • Implement programs useful to other student entrepreneurs (e.g. field trips, events, lectures, workshops)