Last year, the University of Iowa established the Sustainability Living Learning Community (SLLC) at the Mayflower Residence Hall. Living-learning communities provide a unique opportunity for undergraduate students who wish to live on-campus with a community of other residents with similar interests.
Most living-learning communities are rooted in one academic department, such as Men in Engineering, Women in Science and Engineering, or Journalism and Mass Communications. However the SLLC is interdisciplinary and transcending any one major, interest, or college. The SLLC allows students with majors in the humanities, business, and sciences to bring their academic knowledge and combine it with interests and exploration of sustainability.
I visited with Craig Just, an SLLC advisor and UI College of Engineering professor, about the community. He describes it as a place for engaging students to live within their means, challenge the current structure, and move into a more sustainable boundary. One of SLLC’s goal is to “empower students to ask smart questions” when it comes to sustainability and “to make significant change with most impact [given monetary resources],” Craig said.
This past fall, I took the Introduction to Sustainability course with Austin Bell. Austin, who is a sophomore at the University of Iowa, is currently living in the SLLC. He says he chose to participate because the “chance of living with people with similar interests in sustainability was strong enough to stay in the dorms.” For him, it proved to be a beneficial decision, because other residents were also enrolled in the same introductory course, which provided a go-to study group and a connection with his floor mates. Although he is not participating in the SLLC next year, he said it will be easier to live sustainably outside of the dorms because of the knowledge he has learned this past year.
Craig, and others involved, invite “skeptics” to join the SLLC so all have the opportunity to engage in “democratic dialogue” or, actively voice opinions, ideas, and plans about sustainability, specifically with on-campus housing. Sustainability is not only limited to environmentalists or tree huggers, it expands beyond those stereotypes, but breaking them has proven to be the biggest hurdle for the SLLC, a comment Craig echoed. For the next academic year, the SLLC will be housed in Slater Residence Hall on the Westside of campus, with hopes of it bringing it more central to University on-campus living. Being surrounded by students who want to be actively immersed in setting new goals for the University’s sustainability is an opportunity that first-year or returning students should not pass up.
For more information on the Sustainability Living Learning Community, go to their website: http://www.uiowa.edu/admissions/undergrad/housing/sustainability.html