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Live And Learn

23 July 2010 No Comment

Student Engagement Program Creates Friendships, Memories

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Nearly 30 years have passed since Wittenberg’s first Living Learning Program debuted, but the connections made still remain.

Influenced by programs at Texas Christian and Southern Methodist universities, Wittenberg joined the national effort to establish the first Living Learning program on its campus from 1973-1981. Letters were mailed to all 1973-74 incoming freshmen inviting them to participate in the inaugural program. Seventy students accepted and were quickly divided into four sections with men housed in Myers and North Hall and women in South Hall. During fall term, freshman English classes, taught by professors Ron Cummings, Art Faber, Paul Miller and Bob Parker, were held in the residence halls.

Both academic and social, the program increased faculty workload and required more flexible teaching styles. Some took students shopping, to movies and/or to their homes. One major drawback the faculty noted was the lack of gender dynamics and diversity of opinion, and by winter term, a Religion 181 class sometimes met as a co-ed group.

In the fall of 1974-75, Wittenberg opened its first co-ed dorm in Firestine Hall housing the 84 f reshmen participating in the Living-Learning Program. Thirty-eight women lived on the second floor and 42 men on the third. The faculty had offices on the first floor as well as in their academic departments. Students and their dorm-mates attended one class in the lounge with faculty members Cynthia Behrman in history,
Conrad Balliett in English, or Herbert Wolf in religion.

“I loved teaching in the program,” said Professor Emeritus of History Behrman. “It was a wonderful experience – both academic and social. We made lifelong friends.”

Carla Kaessinger Coupe ’78 thought the program would be much more interesting and a good way to get to know people.

“We were quite different culturally, but knew we would sink or swim together,” Coupe said. “We actually had a standing date for 5 p.m. Sunday afternoons to meet in the TV room for reruns of Star Trek. We would hang out and study together, it was very much academic and social, There was always someone available if you wanted to take a walk at 2 a.m. – you knew that no matter what, others had your back.”

Some members traveled to Texas and New Orleans for spring break in 1975.

“We were a diverse group and that experience helped us to better understand civil rights and racial identity,” said Tim Bennett ’78, associate professor of languages. “We formed fast, firm friendships. The experience is the first thing I think about when remembering my college years.”

By 1981 the program was discontinued because of a declining interest. No group claimed responsibility for the program, and it was overseen by an ad hoc committee with members changing from year to year.

While in existence, however, it had a positive effect on retention.

“They had us for life,” Bennett said.

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