Learning Communities Provide Support and Motivation

This fall, the concept of learning communities will be implemented at Jackson State Community College. Two new communities have been formed to give students with similar backgrounds and interests the opportunity to meet and learn together. One group is focused on single parents and another group is for students interested in learning from a multicultural perspective.

Learning communities are not a new concept. They have been utilized at campuses around the country. Their purpose is for groups of students with like-minded goals and shared life experiences to complete their courses together. These communities are closely related to the cohort style that is popular in so many college and university settings.

Dr. Liz Mayo, assistant professor of English, formed the group for single parents. When asked why these groups are important, Mayo states, Learning communities help to forge a social bond where other community college studentsall of whom leave campus at the end of the dayhave a harder time making these connections.

It is noted that there is a large population of single parents attending classes at JSCC. Mayo felt compelled to establish learning communities after becoming aware of the special circumstances that this population of students is up against. I was once a single-working mother, Mayo states. I know that having the emotional support and motivation from other like-minded students should and can help these students complete their programs.

A multicultural learning community is also being established for the fall semester. Dr. Anna Esquivel, assistant professor of English, differentiates this group from the single parents group noting, The multicultural cohort is designed to reflect on how individual experiences and social environments are connected to writing and communication skills. Like the single-parents group, assignments and activities will allow students to think critically about their own experiences and to connect with the experiences of others in the class.

At the heart of both of these learning communities is student success and retention. Both Mayo and Esquivel have pointed to the successes of similar programs at other colleges and universities across the state. It was felt that those successes could and should be modeled at Jackson State.

Esquivel notes that students typically seek out campus organizations and groups for support and identification. Many of my students and I have talked about their desire for a more active campus experiencemore opportunities to interact with their peers, professors, and staff outside of the classroom, states Esquivel. It is hoped that the creation of these communities will go a long way to fill this need.

Mayo and Esquivel should be contacted for more information about learning communities. Call Jackson State at 731-424-3520. Dr. Mayos extension is 50258, or email her at lmayo6@jscc.edu. Dr. Esquivels extension is 50217, or email her at aesquivel@jscc.edu.