Freshman Living & Learning Communities
FIGs are Freshman Interest Groups. They are living and learning communities, organized around a theme or major, of about twenty first-year students who enroll in the same set of three or four courses (classes which first-year students are likely to take) and live on the same floor of the residence halls.
FIGs offer students increased opportunities to make new friends and get to know faculty and staff. Statistics show a higher retention rate for students in FIGs and a slightly higher first semester grade point average. Surveys of our FIG students are very positive; they appreciate the ways in which their FIG made the transition to college life easier.
In addition to increased engagement in the classroom, a major goal of learning communities is to cultivate student scholarship and stimulate intellectual curiosity. A FIG can offer opportunities for instructors to draw upon or reinforce materials covered in other courses in the same FIG and explore ways in which students' learning can be integrated. In this way, instructors work collaboratively to create stronger courses. Through the LeaRN program, FIG instructors have opportunities to participate in professional development activities, including grant projects, faculty seminars and national conferences, and book discussions.
A course with a set low enrollment (roughly 20 students) serves as the central focus or "anchor" of each FIG. Ideally, this is an Intellectual Community ("I") course. Each FIG must include a designated section of such an anchor course, with enrollment for this section restricted to FIG students. Through collaboration with the other FIG teachers, the instructor of this course will function as the academic anchor of the FIG, helping students identify key concepts and ways of thinking in and across the courses in a FIG and through the theme of the FIG.
Enrollment in the anchor section should be limited to FIG students. Seats will be reserved in the FIG sections of the additional courses for FIG students. Most unused seats in the additional courses will be released by the end of new student orientation (June, 2012); however, if FIG students have taken up more than 80% of the available seats, the unused seats may not be released.
Students in a particular FIG are housed on the same floor of the residence halls, and a Resident Assistant (RA) is designated for each FIG. The RAs receive special training in supporting learning communities, and in fall 2012 the RAs will attend one FIG course throughout the semester (most likely the anchor course). The anchor instructor and the RA share responsibility for coordinating the FIG and its programs and activities.
In spring 2013, LeaRN will host a colloquium for FIG instructors dedicated to providing instructors an opportunity to discuss syllabi, plan for possible connections and thematic links, and develop a plan for RA involvement.
FIG instructors and RAs are encouraged to meet with their FIG at least once in the fall semester.