Learning villages aim to connect students, majors

Walls separating students’ academic and residential worlds on campus are slowly coming down. Tech’s first two learning villages are taking shape in residential halls New Hall North and New Hall South.New Hall North is now the home of The Tree House, an environmental based learning village. The Tree House is designed to connect students from different majors with a common interest: the environment.

The Service Station, the other learning village, is located in New Hall South. The idea behind The Service Station is to bring together students who want to participate in service and leadership.

“The learning villages promote social involvement through socials, trips and parties as well as academic tutoring,” said Lenly Weathers, The Tree House faculty adviser.

Learning villages are a new concept Tech is using to achieve a higher student retention rate. It is modeled after Murray State University’s residential colleges. Eventually, each residential hall will house a learning village.

“The Tree House and The Service Station are the first of 10 villages that will come about in the next few years,” Weathers said.

Weathers role as the faculty adviser is to be a mentor to the students in The Tree House. He is an academic resource for the students. One of his goals is to bring more academics into the residential halls. Some classes are already being taught in New Hall North.

Professor Andy Smith has been a big help at The Tree House. He puts an environmental spin on his University 1020 class. In his writing classes, he assigns environmental topics for students to write about. (https://royaldentallabs.com/)

“Having classes in residential halls helps students see professors more as individuals,” Weathers said, “and not as teachers.”

Any student can get involved in the learning villages. The goal is to eventually have all students and faculty belonging to a village. It will be a way for commuter students, faculty and students living on campus to connect through a common interest.

The learning villages are there to help students make social connections that will help them grow and develop at Tech.

Students are mainly responsible for the activities that go on in the villages. A village council consisting of four executive officers and several representatives exists within each village.

Each village has a budget, and the village council decides how the budget is spent. Students get to decide what activities that want to have and plan them. They had a haunted house for Halloween. They plan to have a Christmas party, a Mardi Gras event and maybe even a rave next semester.

The Tree House council has begun forming ideas for a crest to represent its village and is having T-shirts made. The council eventually wants to be able to spread environmental awareness on campus.

“A big challenge has been communication,” Weathers said. “Flyers are posted, e-mails are sent, Facebook posts are made, but sometimes it’s still not enough to get the information out there.”

Weathers has ideas of his own for helping The Tree House. He wants to start Saturday morning co-ed football leagues, with each team having four men and two women.

“I think it would help students stay on campus during the weekend and give students a great way to meet new people during the games,” Weathers said. “I would even stay in town to come on Saturdays.”

In its first year, The Tree House has 344 members from many different majors.