“It has given me a new perspective on the way that I can look at making friends and the way I can look at school,” said Kaleb Bates ’26.
Alongside 48 other first-year students this semester, Bates, a criminal justice major, is a part of Endicott’s new Living Learning Communities (LLCs) on campus. The LLCs center around five themes—Gull Leadership, EmpowHER, Live Well, Better Together, and Go Green—each comprised of a certain number of students who live on the same floor in the same residence hall. (Gull Leadership is in Reynolds Hall, EmpowHER is in Trexler Hall, Live Well is in Hale Hall, Better Together is in Peter Frates Hall, and Go Green is in Brindle Hall.)
Students connect over their chosen topic through Critical Reading and Writing I (ENG111), which highlights the theme along with excursions and campus events centered around the shared interest.
Bates, who is a part of the Better Together LLC, said the new communities presented a good opportunity to get more involved on campus. He said he needed new opportunities to make friends—an experience he could get with the LLCs.
“At the beginning, when you’re vulnerable and uncomfortable to the new school as a whole,” said Bates, “LLCs give you something to meet new people with and allows you to kind of go outside of your comfort zone.”
For Marybeth Wilhelm, an adjunct professor and academic coach, LLCs offer an enriching environment to encourage conversations, and make students feel at ease in a more comfortable setting.
“I think when students feel more comfortable and more at ease, then they’re more willing to take some academic risks,” said Wilhelm. “They’re more willing to engage and open up.”
Sam Alexander, Associate Professor of English and the Department Lead for the Humanities at Endicott, agrees. Alexander, who leads the Gull Leadership LLC, said the dynamic changes when students come down from their rooms to class.
“I think they feel more in their own space, more comfortable,” said Alexander. “I find that conversation is a little bit more effortless than it might be in a normal classroom.”
He noted that, typically, the classroom is considered a teacher’s space. Now, it’s the students’ space that he is coming into, and that as a result they feel more ownership for the course.
The program also helps develop relationships between the students, as connections are formed by discussing course material, Alexander noted.
“Students have ideas that they want to bring, they want to discuss. They’re very comfortable with each other,” he said. “They know each other well, because they all live together.”
Wilhelm added that another benefit of the program is witnessing the connection between students’ lives outside the classroom and within it. Topics mentioned in class might connect to something a student is experiencing in their own life, said Wilhelm, and it is within this connection that authentic learning happens.
As professor of the section focused on DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging), Wilhelm said her class provides students an opportunity to share, listen, learn, and process what’s going on in the world.
“You can tell it’s important to them, because they have real opinions about what they think is important, and what they hope to see happen in this Endicott world and beyond,” she explained.
Wilhelm added that connection is a big part of her classroom, in which she wants students to feel connected to the material, each other as part of a community, and faculty and staff.
Both she and Alexander emphasized the importance of their relationships with Residence Life staff, who plan events and happenings on and off campus, including activities that promote Endicott’s theme for this academic year: Belonging is Our Sixth Sense.
“It gives the opportunity for them to spend some extra time reflecting on the topic in nontraditional ways,” said Alexander.
Outside the classroom
Residence Director Stephanie Carnazzo oversees three out of five residence halls involved with the LLCs (Reynolds, Trexler, and Hale), and reviews the class syllabus with each professor before planning trips and events that complement each course.
So far, Gull Leadership LLC students have visited with various leaders on campus, including President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D., and Marlin Nabors, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students. Dinner was provided and students learned about different leadership styles.
“I hope that they’re able to understand the development they can get, not only through the classroom learning, but also outside of the classroom learning,” said Carnazzo.
Jimmy Munro, Assistant Residence Director for Peter Frates Hall (Better Together LLC), said he can see how engaged and happy students are in these smaller LLC communities within their residence halls.
In September, Munro joined students on a visit to Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Munro said the trip was an eye-opening experience for students, who had great engagement and conversation while at the museum and on the ride home.
“My personal goal is to just broaden and strengthen the LLC as we go on,” said Munro. “It’s the inaugural year, so this is the time where if we try something and if it doesn’t work, then that’s okay, we go back to the drawing boards.”
He and Carnazzo encourage next year’s first-year students to research LLCs and get involved.
“It’s a great way as a first-year student to already be involved with something on campus,” said Munro. “You’re going to have other people who have the same ideas and who have the same goals and want to learn the same thing.”