Learning communities earn recognition for second year

Greg Doyle

For the second year, U.S. News & World Report recognized Villanova’s freshman learning communities program as an exemplary opportunity for students. Villanova was one of 26 universities commended for providing the opportunity for students and professors to work closer together and for a longer period of time, thus providing a more enriching educational experience.

According to U.S. News & World Report, a valuable aspect of a learning community is its encouragement of perpetuating class discussions that extend beyond the classroom. At Villanova, a member of a learning community will have an Augustine and Culture Seminar class that is tailored to incorporate the theme of his or her program.

“I strongly believe that being a freshman in a learning community gives you a more fulfilling first year,” said sophomore Kailey Kilmartin, who was a member of the Leadership Experience as a freshman. “You get an enriched classroom experience and you get to know your professors better. You stick with them through both semesters along with the members of your class, who you get to know really well and feel more comfortable having open discussion.”

The more intimate setting of the learning communities encourages close, trusting relationships with peers that eases the transition from high school to college, according to Kilmartin.

“Everybody in my class is really close together and since we all live in St. Monica’s, we have become very good friends,” said freshman Sagar Parikh, who is a member of the Leadership Experience. It also has provided an interesting twist in ACS, as our teacher brings leadership into our class, as well.”

Because the learning community classes remain unchanged throughout the school year, relationships are able to develop more easily than they would in a standard ACS class.

“There are enormous benefits to being a member of a Villanova learning community,” Kilmartin said. “You can hone in on and develop a skill set that will benefit you for the rest of your Villanova career. You also form close relationships that last a lifetime with the with the other members of your community.”

Villanova has eight learning communities available for freshmen. Members are housed in either St. Monica Hall, Katharine Hall, O’Dwyer Hall or Delurey Hall.

Having all the members of a learning community coexist in the same residence hall allows lessons, topics and discussions from class to become omnipresent, according to Nancy Kelley, director of Villanova’s learning community program.

“I firmly believe that our learning communities offer a deep experience of Villanova’s core value of community,” Kelley said. “The program brings together students from all four colleges and is a major vehicle for fostering inter-disciplinary and inter-collegiate dialogue.”

Villanova has offered learning communities to incoming freshmen for over a decade. Originally, the University only offered the Leadership Experience program and members were housed in St. Mary’s Hall, the only co-ed residence hall for freshmen at the time.

Since Kelley became director of the program, it has expanded and prospered.

Today, almost one-third of the freshman class is enrolled in a learning community. The University’s strong commitment to the learning communities program has made its growth possible.

According to Kelley, Rev. John P. Stack, O.S.A., and Kathy Byrnes have been generous with their time, support and funding.

Each year, learning community members are given special opportunities to be educated outside the classroom walls.

Trips to museums, both in New York City and locally, subsidized tickets to our own Vasey plays as well as Philadelphia theaters, and formal themed dinners are among the experiences that act as a supplement to the ACS curriculum for a learning community.

“Learning communities represent a true Augustinian moment,” Kelley said. “Augustine would recognize the search for veritas through the classroom and residence hall bonds of unitas as the hallmarks of ACS and the learning communities.”