A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Finding Your Tribe

By Colleen Kearney Rich on February 16, 2016

Living Learning Communities, called LLCs, provide Mason students with the opportunity to live among people who share the same interests or majors. Finding one’s niche on campus has never been easier.

George Mason University sophomore Lamar Crosby is proud of his electric blue polo shirt, the one that identifies him as a peer mentor on campus.

Global Living LLC peer mentor Lamar CrosbyPhoto by Evan Cantwell

Global Living LLC peer mentor Lamar Crosby
Photo by Evan Cantwell

“If I wear that shirt, it is like I am Superman,” the Savannah, Georgia, native says. “People come up to me all the time and ask, ‘Do you work here?’”

Crosby enjoys helping his fellow students. This is his second year living in the Global Living Learning Community (LLC). Last year he was active on the LLC’s council, which deals with student concerns. This year he has a job that provides an ombudsman-like framework for the kind of work he loves to do.

Crosby came to George Mason seeking diversity. “In Georgia, there just wasn’t a lot of diversity,” he says. “I felt a different experience was necessary.”

In the Global Living LLC, students from the United States (or as they call themselves “domestics”) live alongside international students in the Mason Global Center, an experience that provides all with the opportunity to share their culture and some to practice speaking English. As part of the LLC program, each community takes a class together. For the Global Living students, that class is COMM 305 Intercultural Communication.

LLCs have been available at Mason for almost 20 years and continue to grow in popularity. Mason now hosts 16 communities that vary in topic from Sustainability to Leadership and Community Engagement. Major-based LLCs cater to students majoring in the arts, business and economics, and engineering. The Honors College LLC is a popular one, filling three residence halls this year. Some LLCs are exclusively for freshmen; others combine freshmen with upperclass students.

“It gives students a head start,” says Kara Danner, the LLC development director. “You only have one freshman year, and fall semester lasts 14 weeks. That’s not a lot of time to get acclimated and find out what campus is all about.”

Studies have shown that LLCs improve student retention rates and achievement. They also encourage interaction with faculty. Not to mention the fact that there is always someone to grab a meal with and get advice from.

This is applied computer science major Mike Hudson’s second year serving as a peer advisor to the freshman-only Engineering LLC. As a part of his job, Hudson teaches a freshman transitions course specifically geared to engineering majors.

Choosing to live in the LLC his freshman year was an easy decision for Hudson. “In high school, I got picked on for being the nerdy kid and being smart,” he says. He figured by living with other engineers he would find like-minded individuals, and he did.

In addition to teaching the class, Hudson makes himself available to students during the week and often goes to get food with groups of them at Southside. He believes that because engineering students have many of the same classes, they are more bonded.

Meghana Varde (third from the left on the bottom row) found her perfect spot in the Mindful Living LLC, a community open to all majors.

Meghana Varde (third from the left on the bottom row) found her perfect spot in the Mindful Living LLC, a community open to all majors.

“It is like a built-in study group,” says Hudson, who is from Yorktown, Virginia. He has also found that engineering students, after the LLC year, are more likely to continue to live together in groups during their time at Mason.

“LLCs are one of the best things we offer on campus,” he says. “It is a great way to get to know people and make friends.”

Meghana Varde, a chemistry major from New Jersey, agrees. “I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else on campus,” she says of the Mindful Living LLC, a community open to all students.

Varde says that, as a freshman, she received good advice from upperclassmen—especially about transitioning to college life. Now in her second year in the LLC, she is returning the favor: “You are helping freshmen get through what you went through last year.”

Junior Xiaoxia Zhang had a difficult time deciding whether to major in psychology or environmental science. She decided on psychology but can keep up with her interest in the environment through the Sustainability LLC, where she has lived for two years.

Zhang, who came to Mason from Beijing, China, really enjoys working in the organic gardens on the Fairfax Campus. “I’m a foodie. I have to try everything.”

Xiaoxia Zhang is part of the Sustainability Living Learning Community.

Xiaoxia Zhang found her place in the Sustainability LLC.

When she returns to China after graduation, she plans to set up a garden for her parents. As a part of her LLC, she also helped build a rainwater garden outside of Piedmont Hall, where the LLC resides, and worked on the Presidents Park Hydroponic Greenhouse, which provides produce for Mason Dining.

“I wish the greenhouse was bigger,” says Zhang. “There is nothing like eating something you’ve grown yourself.”

For more information about LLCs at Mason, visit llc.gmu.edu.

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