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Learning communities offer 'great experience'

By GAYLE WEBER

gweber@dailynews.net

A great experience --  that's what Gustavo Reyes calls his first year of college at Fort Hays State University.

The Garden City sophomore took advantage of a unique opportunity a year ago that was so successful it has tripled in size.

Reyes was one of approximately 25 students who were part of the Live. Learn. Lead. learning community at FHSU. The group took some of the same classes, lived together on the first floor of McMindes Hall and took an educational trip to Washington during spring break.

"I got acquainted with people around campus and joined more activities," Reyes said.

Now, he's planning to help with orientation for this year's learning community participants.

Along with the L3 community, two additional learning communities have been added this year.

L3,  which emphasizes leadership skills, will return with 27 enrolled students this fall, according to Jill Arensdorf, faculty leader for the L3 community.

"We made some changes to the curriculum based on feedback from the students," Arensdorf said. "They said they liked doing things outside of the classroom together, so we're going to do more co-curricular activities."

The Go Global community will focus on internationalization, studying abroad and cultural awareness. Twenty-six freshmen are enrolled in the community.

Psychology majors will have their own dedicated learning community in Psych Investigators, another new community with 24 students enrolled.

The communities are only for freshmen and encourage leadership and activities beyond the classroom setting.

"We're hoping that this will keep expanding so eventually we will have a majority of freshmen at Fort Hays State involved in learning communities," Arensdorf said.

The first and second floors of McMindes have been reserved for the learning communities this year. And with Reyes and other returning students involved, the transition to college for learning community students should be manageable, Arensdorf said.

"We have a lot of the learning community students --  most are coming back to Fort Hays State University and many are helping train next year's learning community," Arensdorf said.

One of those is Kelcie Hamilton, a sophomore from North Platte, Neb., who credits the learning community with helping her better understand herself.

"I went from being in radiology to communication because I love people and I love talking to people," Hamilton said of switching majors. "(L3) just provided me with so many opportunities."

Hamilton characterized the L3 community as "tightly-knit" and willing to do things as a group.

She will be a resident assistant for the L3 community this year, helping new students adjust to college life and being a resource for the students who will be in the same shoes she wore just a year ago.

"That was an amazing experience," Hamilton said of the community.