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Archive for Friday, August 12, 2005

Thematic Learning Communities growing at KU

August 12, 2005

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Freshmen enrolling at Kansas University can choose the Thematic Learning Communities program, which is designed to fill class requirements, improve student retention and promote academic success.

The TLC is geared to the first-year students at KU and comprises two core courses and a seminar course that focus on a particular theme.

Mary Ann Rasnak, director of Academic Achievement and Access Center, oversees the TLC and says the programs not only help students succeed at KU, it also helps students select a major.

"One goal is to let students try on courses," Rasnak said. "Sometimes a student might not know that they would like a subject until they get involved - get into a study group and see how it can develop into a career."

New programs this year include Preparing for International Careers. Students will take a foreign language course paired with a course that explores what's involved when working with international clients.

Living Online: The Internet in College and Community teaches the history and structure of the Internet, and it focuses on how the Internet shapes everything from dating to careers. Class choices include sociology and American politics, as well as an introduction to computers.

Rasnak says one popular theme is Mind, Brain and Behavior.

"Students choose course options of computer science, linguistics and philosophy," Rasnak said. "These courses combined help explain human behavior."

The TLC allows students to participate in study groups, meet with professors outside of the classroom and engage in discussions related to the academic theme.

Students are paired with peer educators who help students improve their academic performance.

Beth Kimberly, a KU graduate in mathematics and strategic communications, served as a peer educator in Ellsworth Hall and created social and academic programs and study groups for the students.

"I was available to them for academic questions or questions about enrollment, dropping courses, studying, grades and more," Kimberly said. "I also co-facilitated a seminar on a topic revolving around orientation to college and linking the two courses our students were enrolled in."

Rasnak says the number of students returning to KU after their freshman year has increased 4 percent to 6 percent when they participated in the TLC program.

"We've finished our second year, and in a satisfaction survey we found overall students are happy with their experience," Rasnak said.

Students interested in more information may access the Web site at www.tlc.ku.edu or call 864-0187. There's no tuition increase or fee to participate.

Francine Riley is a freelance writer

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