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We belong here: TU’s redesigned living-learning communities

The University of Tulsa welcomed students to its redesigned living-learning communities (LLCs) in fall 2020. Growing in popularity at universities and colleges across the country, LLCs are a type of residence hall neighborhood that brings together students who share similar academic and/or personal interests and, thereby, help to foster engagement and belonging.

an illustration of five university residences with four cartoon people in front“These common-interest living communities offer residents exclusive learning opportunities with faculty and staff around shared passions,” explained Scott Gove, TU’s associate director of residence life. “The students who choose to live in one of our LLCs have ready access to events, programming and dedicated leaders. LLCs help them establish friendships and apply what they learn in class to everyday life.”

Homes sweet homes

TU currently offers four LLCs:

In 2021-22, the university plans to expand the University Honors LLC into campus apartments and have students from the 2020-21 cohort serve as mentors for the new incoming group. A fifth LLC will also be added to the roster: Esports & Gaming will be a home for students interested in gaming, either as a member of university-sponsored Esports teams or as a recreational gamer.

From the classroom to the living room

After having worked as a resident assistant (RA) during his sophomore and junior years, Jacob Welsh was keen to serve as the RA during his senior year with the University Honors LLC. “My main roles are to ensure safety, provide academic and personal support/resources, create a social and inviting community, and cater to the interests of those in the community,” Welsh observed. “But in an LLC, the scope of each of these roles can be narrowed and capitalized on to provide the best experience for residents.”

For Denise Dutton, the University Honors LLC faculty advisor, one of the great benefits of LLCs is that they bring together students from a variety of disciplines. For University Honors residents, “that makes it a space where everybody gets to practice both sharing their expertise and also thinking as a curious and informed non-expert.”

In fact, Dutton sees a profound connection between this living arrangement and students’ academic explorations: “I just can’t imagine a better way to complement the Honors curriculum’s study of human culture and individual liberty than by living in this interdependent community where our day-to-day choices are illuminated by our shared study of the moral, political and scientific arguments that have shaped our society.” For Dutton, the “deeper lesson” that her LLC fosters is that “each of us has the power and the responsibility to choose what to think about, and how to think about it well. That lesson, after all, is at the heart of a transformative liberal arts education.”

Getting involved and making connections

Welsh agrees that LLCs are uniquely able to unite people who share common interests, and he notes the power of LLCs to create events that cater to those investments. That is not to say, however, that LLCs demand the same level of involvement from all residents: “each person can explore their interests however and at the level of engagement they are comfortable with,” Welsh said. “Residence Life staff do not force any student to participate in events if they wouldn’t like to. But by encouraging involvement, residents can realize their fit in a community that satisfies their interests and personal connections.”

 

For those who do choose to participate in, for example, programs that bring students and professors together, the dividend, said Dutton, can be a “deepening of students’ meaningful relationships with faculty mentors, which, research suggests, is the most important contributor to learning in college.” For University Honors residents, such opportunities have included invited faculty lectures, informal dinner-and-movie nights, faculty-vs-student soccer matches and local outings to, for instance, attend the Tulsa Opera or stargaze at Gilcrease.

Conversation, laughter and friendship

Computer science major Grace Havrilka is someone who has found both a community and a way to develop her interests through involvement in an LLC. Havrilka’s primary motivation for applying to live in TU’s Gender & Sexuality Inclusivity LLC was the desire for the unique experience of being surrounded by people who share a similar worldview and/or who identify as LGBTQIA+.

Thus far, Havrilka could not be more pleased by her choice. For one thing, “living in this LLC lends itself to way more discussions than most other spaces do,” she noted. For example, prior to the winter break, members watched the lesbian-themed holiday film Happiest Season over Zoom and then had a rich discussion of sexuality in both the film and media at large. Residing in TU’s Gender & Sexuality Inclusivity LLC has also opened new opportunities for Havrilka. Recently, for example, she was a part of a panel to discuss how to ensure that the roommate finder survey is as inclusive as possible and worded in such a way as to optimize responses.

Havrilka’s comments are borne out by Welsh’s experience on the RA side: “Although all events this year have either been virtual or socially distanced, engagement opportunities are the best way to provide residents with both tangible and intangible resources, all while allowing conversations, laughter and friendships to grow and thrive.” Welsh also spends a good deal of energy finding out about his LLC members’ personal interests, knowledge that empowers him to plan events that resonate and meet their needs.

Virtual community-building

LLCs are designed to bring people together; however, figuring out how to meet safely and which activities are viable during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big challenge. Yet, technology and the desire to connect have enabled community members to grow their bonds.

“All our meetings have to be virtual,” Havrilka explained, “but we have a Microsoft Teams chat available to us and staff willing to answer questions. New groups are also forming, such as a Gender Identity group, for people to discuss and explore their gender identity while meeting other people who share it.”

Virtual events, such as Zoom book clubs and works-in-progress forums have been beneficial, remarked Dutton, “but we are eager once it is safe to return to breaking bread together so as to deepen our connections to one another.”


LLCs “enable you to meet new people, have interesting discussions and find new opportunities,” said Grace Harvilka, a resident in the Gender & Sexuality Inclusivity LLC. “I would definitely recommend this experience to any students who are interested!” If you are curious about joining this community or one of TU’s other dynamic LLCs, get in touch with the Office of Housing & Dining, which operates in partnership with Residence Life’s LLC curriculum.

My marvelous midterms

By: Adam Porterie

As a high schooler I always heard from college students how midterms and finals were the most stressful part of college. So, when the time came and my first midterm exam was posted, I felt a rush of anxiety and was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do enough. To combat this, I sat down and re-examined all my syllabi, defining for myself what exactly was expected of me and how I needed to go about doing it.

Small black desk lampMaking short-term goals and seeing them through is a skill my success coach, Nadia Hall, has really helped me develop this semester. I was able to apply this in setting goals for each day and seeing what I needed to progress in so that I could manage my schedule and have my exams done to my fullest ability. I have even started to use the sticky notes app on my laptop to keep up with my day-to-day assignments. This is something that I have found to be incredibly useful in organizing exams.

Two men in a restaurant smiling at the camera
Taking a break from studying

My midterms stretched out for the entire month of October, starting with what is now the longest essay I have ever written, which was only three pages, to frantic Fridays attempting to recollect two months of knowledge. However, I only had to spend a couple of late nights studying and writing.

I had a feeling of preparedness from my professors, as they all were very open to questions and detailed in what they expected. This almost came as a shock to me as I was under the impression that most professors would be more focused on their own activities than having dedicated time to help us through even our first online midterms. That’s a feeling that is now long gone and well written off. The accommodating feeling I’ve had really solidified my choice in The University of Tulsa.

Collection of packaged Italian food
Deliziosi: All the ingredients for a great Itailan meal

Taking time off from my exams, I took part in some retail therapy, going out thrift shopping with my friends, going out to eat with my family or just cooking with authentic Italian ingredients sent to me from Italy by my girlfriend. Finding this balance of work and fun greatly helped me to not feel overwhelmed with my own academic challenges this semester.

The people in my life make me feel like I have a great amount of support. This semester, my family has been regularly checking in on me and I feel blessed to have the people around me that I do. I attribute my success so far in many ways to them as online school gets tougher.


Adam Porterie smiling, wearing a blue and white open-collar shirt and standing in front of the seaAdam Porterie is from Forney, Texas. He is majoring in business management with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. Adam loves making music and exploring new hobbies.

COVID-19 as a college freshman

By: Luke Bertaux

This is definitely not the way I expected my freshman year of college to end. I was at McFarlin Library on March 10 with my Global Scholars group writing up a big case analysis we had due the next day, when we all suddenly got an email that courses were immediately moving online. At the time, TU was one of the first schools in the area to make this decision, so the news genuinely seemed too bizarre to be real.

Luke Bertaux and his Little Brother Angel leaping in the air
My little brother, Angel, and me

Little did I know, I would be packing up my belongings three days later and driving myself home to Texas, not to return for the rest of the semester and hoping that my 2008 Toyota Prius would survive the journey home.

The abrupt end to my freshman year on campus was difficult to accept, as I had just started to get involved with more activities around Tulsa. Shortly before the pandemic started, I was paired with my little brother, Angel, through a youth mentoring program called Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma. Since moving back to Texas, I have enjoyed being able to use technology to continue talking to Angel and trying to navigate through our new temporary normal.

Luke Bertaux and a friend wearing face masks outside a Walmart store
A Walmart run during the pandemic

Through the transition to online classes, seeing my classmates in tiny boxes on my computer screen was strange at first, but I am glad that technology is allowing us to stay connected with professors and classmates. Still, virtual technology, no matter how smooth and high resolution, cannot replace the on-campus living experience, the conversations on the way in and out of classrooms, the weekends exploring Tulsa and the personal relationships with professors.

Luke Bertaux jumping in a wooded area
Social distancing in the woods

Life is different because of COVID-19. My easy 90-second walk from my dorm room to the Chick-fil-A in the Student Union has transformed into suiting up in a required mask and gloves to head into Walmart to get groceries. The usual welcome diversions of friends stopping by my dorm room while studying have turned into walking my dogs in between virtual classes. I will no longer get to go to Panama in May with my Global Scholars cohort, and I won’t have the opportunity to compete as a TU finalist for the Worlds Challenge Challenge in Canada.

But that’s ok. I know that as soon as I am able to return to TU’s campus, I will be able to be a part of so many more opportunities. I eagerly await the day I get to go back. Everybody is making sacrifices to adapt to the pandemic lifestyle and so many workers are putting in tons of effort to keep essential services running. I think of the beautiful campus and phenomenal students and professors that I get to return to in order to help me stay motivated during these difficult, but tolerable, times.

Luke Bertaux and two friends jumping up in the University of Tulsa football stadium
Pre-pandemic Chapman Stadium photoshoot

University of Tulsa freshman Luke BertauxLuke Bertaux is a freshman at The University of Tulsa pursuing a dual degree with majors in International Business and Spanish. He is from Keller, Texas, and in his free time he enjoys running and performing music.

TU Law welcomes the largest 1L class in nearly a decade

The University of Tulsa College of Law is always a vibrant place. But this year its classrooms, corridors and lounges are positively humming with the arrival of the largest 1L class since 2010. As of fall 2019, TU Law’s entering class is up 19% over the previous year.

Dean Lyn Entzeroth attributes much of this growth to the college’s dedicated Admissions team as well as the fact that word has spread near and far about the high-quality education and student support TU Law offers.

“My colleagues in Admissions do a masterful job helping prospective students understand the process of applying to law school and the elements that make our college a perfect fit for many of them, including our low student-to-faculty ratio, personalized approach to teaching and mentoring as well as our professional development services,” Entzeroth remarked. “The past 12 months have also seen TU Law recognized publicly for factors that are critical to prospective students, including bar passage and job placement rates. Without our dedicated faculty and staff members, none of this would be possible.”

Texans living on Tulsa time

Two of the students who recently joined TU Law are Kristin Rodriguez and Trevion Freeman. Both of them hail from Texas and completed bachelor’s degrees majoring in political science (Rodriguez at the University of Oklahoma and Freeman at the University of Texas at Austin). As they contemplated where to attend law school, both of them envisioned studying somewhere in Texas.

University of Tulsa College of Law freshman student Kristin Rodriguez
Kristin Rodriguez

“I love it there, and I am 100% Texan through and through,” Rodriguez said. Born and raised in Waco, Freeman had much the same thought: “Although I’d heard many good things about TU Law, I honestly did not see myself moving away from Texas.”

Part of what motivated Rodriguez to bid a temporary farewell to her home state was how impressed she was with TU Law’s recruitment process. “They were the only school that sent mail and email as well as called me,” she said. “TU Law was also the only school that called to let me know I had been accepted. I was actually finishing up an on-campus tour at another school and meeting with their dean when my watch buzzed with the call from Miss Janet at TU Law. She seemed overjoyed for me. I felt wanted. And Tulsa feels like Austin, but with no traffic!”

For his part, Freeman said, “TU Law was the first school that contacted me after I applied, letting me know that I was accepted. After visiting Tulsa and the College of Law and learning that my friend Harry from UT Austin had also been admitted, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and continue my education up here.”

Beyond the thoughtfulness of the Admissions team plus Tulsa’s cool vibe and livable scale, Rodriguez and Freeman were also swayed to accept TU Law’s offer because of several critical reputational factors. Most important among these, they noted, are the school’s Top 100 status, high bar passage rate within two years of graduation (92.96%) and excellent job placement rate (#10 in the United States). It didn’t hurt, too, that TU Law is among the Top 25 Best Value private and public law schools and, at #2 in the national rankings, TU Law is among the top Best Value private law schools. The University of Tulsa College of Law is a Top 100 law school

A supportive, engaged community

So, 12 weeks in and did TU Law live up to its promise and Rodriguez and Freeman’s expectations?

“It’s been hard, but rewarding,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve written two mid-terms so far, and they’ve gone well. In addition, all my professors have an open-door policy if you have questions or need to talk about anything.”

University of Tulsa College of Law freshman student Trevion Freeman
Trevion Freeman

Freeman, meanwhile, characterized his first semester at TU Law as “extraordinary.” In his words, “all my professors and the administrative staff have shown on a daily basis that they want me and my fellow students to succeed. Law school is a challenging journey, but it helps when you know that there are people who care and who are willing to help with anything.”

Another element that has enhanced the law school experience for both Rodriguez and Freeman has been their involvement in TU Law’s vibrant student organizations. Rodriguez recollected, “as an undergrad, the only thing I joined was a sorority, and I did the bare minimum with them. But I told myself going into law school I wanted to be involved. One of the first things I did was join the Student Bar Association (SBA), where I was elected as a 1L delegate to represent my 1L class. That’s been a real honor. I’ve met upperclassmen through the SBA and gotten to know the other 1L delegates.”

In addition, Rodriguez stepped up to become the secretary of the Latino Law Students Association and the Law and Medicine Society. Likewise, Freeman was elected to be a delegate to the SBA, representing the class of 2022. “That moment,” he said, “affirmed for me that TU Law was the place I belonged.”

“I definitely made the right choice,” Rodriguez echoed. “TU Law is a community of people who want you to succeed. Even in my 1L class, everyone is incredibly kind and uplifting. And I love how diverse it is and that I’ve been able to meet people from all over the country.”The University of Tulsa College of Law is #10 in full-time, long-term bar license-required and JD advantage positionsThe University of Tulsa College of Law's students achieved a 92.96% bar passage rate within two years of graduation. 


If you are thinking about a career in law, consider earning your juris doctorate at The University of Tulsa College of Law – one of the country’s Top 100 law schools.