Last year, the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning introduced Themed Learning Communities to NIU.
This year, Intercollegiate Athletics integrated into this program with its first TLC: “Developing Champions: In the classroom, in competition and in life.”
With an emphasis on leadership and social justice, the 25 hand-picked freshman student-athletes who represent almost every NIU athletic team are taking COMS 100 and EPFE 201 (Education as an Agent for Social Change).
Students are learning how to become influential leaders not only in their sport, but in other areas of their lives as well. They practice and apply these skills by completing integrated assignments and participating in spirited, educated discussions and activities in their TLC classes.
MacKenzie Roddy, a freshman volleyball student-athlete, is a member of the “Developing Champions” TLC.
“Being a student-athlete can be hard sometimes because of all the extra responsibilities with practice, travel and competition … so it’s nice to take this TLC with peers who are going through the same things that I am,” Roddy said. “I feel more comfortable participating in class and getting involved; we have lively debate that really helps me to fully understand all perspectives of an issue.”
Themed Learning Communities are groups of two or three classes bundled together around a common theme with the goal of providing students the opportunity to engage deeply with a course theme, connect learning across courses in collaborative and active ways while at the same time developing relationships with peers and faculty that enhance their college experience.
The class size is capped at 25 so students are able to better connect with their professors and form close relationships with their classmates. It’s a great way for students to adjust to college life and take general education courses around a topic that interests them.
“The Developing Champions TLC has transformed EPFE 201: Education as an Agent for Change into a unique opportunity for student athletes to explore the intersection of sport, culture and social change throughout the history of modern society,” said Jessica Vivirito, one of the TLC instructors. “I hope the students will leave the course with a new awareness of the NCAA and intercollegiate athletics, and the significant role they have in shaping Northern Illinois University.”
Jeff Compher, associate vice president and director of Athletics, encouraged NIU coaches to identify student-athletes who would be interested in participating in TLCs.
“Our student-athletes should take full advantage of the tremendous academic opportunities available at NIU,” Compher said. “We are thrilled to participate, and we applaud the university effort to create engaging academic programs for all of our students through these TLCs.”
“To be able to further the broader university mission while simultaneously developing our future student-athlete leaders is an incredible opportunity which we are extremely grateful for,” added Megan Ciolli, assistant NIU softball coach and member of the “Developing Champions” student services work group.
For more information about TLCs, contact Julia Spears at (815) 753-8152 or [email protected].