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Living Learning Communities Promote Student Growth

By: Kathleen Tuck   Published 8:21 am / April 3, 2015

Photo of a group of students working on a computer

When Aline Elquist arrived at Boise State as a freshman in August 2013, she was nervous about making friends and fitting into college life. She hoped that being part of the Engineering Living and Learning Community would make it easier.

She was right, but it wasn’t quite what she imagined. “It was nothing like I expected,” said Elquist, “but in the best possible way.”

Instead of simply a group of students sharing the same major and living in the same residence hall, she encountered an interactive corps of like-minded peers, engaging activities and challenging academic assignments.

Now a sophomore and a program assistant working with this year’s freshmen, she is a firm believer in the role of the residential college program in opening doors for students and helping them create a community of lifelong friends.

Photo of Krishna Pajala White Water RaftingThat’s the sort of response Krishna Pakala hopes will define the experience for the 29 students living alongside him, his wife and their young son this year in Keiser Hall. Pakala is a clinical assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and the current faculty in residence for the Engineering LLC.

Living and Learning Communities group freshmen students with the same major or interests together in a residence hall, where they live alongside a faculty member. Boise State currently has six LLCs: Arts and Sciences, Business and Economics, Education, Engineering, Health Professions, and Leadership and Engagement.

“I really like living with people who have similar interests,” said Kelsie Styrlund, an Engineering LLC resident from Bremerton, Washington. “Living in the dorms is hard because you are around people all the time, and it can sometimes get loud when you are trying to study. But it’s better here compared to other places on campus. We are pretty academically based.”

“I didn’t know anyone in Boise and I thought this would put me with people who had the same academic interests,” echoed resident Corey Reece, from Gainesville, Georgia. “And I knew I’d have friends right from the beginning to eat dinner with and do homework with.

Photo of a group of Boise State students RaftingAdding to the program’s appeal is a low faculty-to-student ratio and academic course credit. Students meet in a regular class to learn study skills, increase confidence in communications and focus on academic performance, their sense of belonging, digital fluency (Pakala secured iPads for each resident to use while in the LLC), and more.

“Project and community participation is also a factor,” he said. Students have a list of semester activities, such as a Renaissance fair, football games, rafting, movies, dinners, a talent show, volunteering for STEM Day, etc., and have to attend a certain number for course credit.

A first-semester paper focused on setting goals and creating a roadmap to achieve them, how to deal with inevitable adversity, managing time and understanding teaching and learning styles. Second semester is focusing on engineering projects, which will be presented as part of the College of Engineering’s Senior Design Showcase on April 30

Each student team has a $100 budget for the open-ended assignment. Projects range from creation of a trebuchet and a Frisbee launcher to a new Pandora-like streamer and 3D robotic arm.

Pakala said he became interested in the faculty in residence program when, as a new faculty member, he encountered several sophomore students who were not as well prepared for his courses as he would have liked.

“Here was a program where I could help instill a culture of good study habits early on, and then they could use those skills in all their classes” he said. “It has turned out to be a great thing.”

The students think so, too. In fact, the Engineering LLC has been so successful that it is planning to expand to 40 spaces next year, with the possibility of adding an additional eight-person suite on a different floor. And five students will be involved in communities next year: two as program assistants, one as a peer advisor and two as resident assistants.

Pakala said the expansion wouldn’t be possible without the support of Engineering Dean Amy Moll, who has provided funds for additional program assistants in addition to project funding

And Pakala said the experience has been life changing for him, as well.

“I’ve come to know more campus resources as I’ve tried to introduce those to the students,” he said. “There are lots of events I wouldn’t be aware of if I lived off campus. Now, I’m more connected to campus.”

Learn more about the Residential College Living and Learning Communities online at

  • Living and Learning Community, For Krishna Pakala, Wankun Sirichotiyakul Photo

  • Living and Learning Community, For Krishna Pakala, Wankun Sirichotiyakul Photo

  • Living and Learning Community, For Krishna Pakala, Wankun Sirichotiyakul Photo

  • Living and Learning Community, For Krishna Pakala, Wankun Sirichotiyakul Photo

  • Living and Learning Community, For Krishna Pakala, Wankun Sirichotiyakul Photo

  • Living and Learning Community, For Krishna Pakala, Wankun Sirichotiyakul Photo


Slide 1, 3D-printed Robotic Arm: Spencer Pierce (ME), Zachary Taylor (ME), Sean Weech (EE), Jake Halopoff (ME) and Jessica Burke (ME)

Slide 2, Proximity Sensor: Tammy Jackson (ME), Madeline Ross (EE), Heather Campbell (CE) and Steven Saldivar (EE)

Slide 3, Quadcopter: Caitlyn Brown (CS), Tyler Gilbert (ME), Zack Broeg (CS), Cameron Wright (CS) and Bradley Jasper (EE)

Slide 4, Trebuchet: Nathan Schwartz (ME), Isaac Johnson (ME), Dustin Ma (ME), Kane Venecia (ME), Harley Newhart (ME) and Caleb Walin (ME)

Slide 5, Frisbee Launcher: Jillian Donahue (ME), Corey Reece (ME), Kelsie Styrlund (CE), Andee Morton (ME) and Laura Rill (MSE)

Slide 6, Frisbee Launcher: Jillian Donahue (ME) and Andee Morton (ME)

Slide 7, Trebuchet: Harley Newhart (ME), Caleb Walin (ME), Dustin Ma (ME) and Kane Venecia (ME)