NIU’s Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning has kicked off the fall semester with 14 Themed Learning Communities, representing four colleges as well as the Academic Advising Center, Athletics, CHANCE and PROMISE.
Almost 300 first-year students are participating this year with a group of dedicated TLC faculty and staff.
Peer leaders have been placed in each TLC to enhance the learning experience and provide students with support in their first year. These upperclassmen work closely with the TLC instructors to aid in students’ academic and social transitions to the university. This includes holding study sessions and attending events on-campus to encourage involvement.
For the duration of the first half of the semester TLC Peer Leaders have been hosting study sessions and organizing community building activities on and around campus. These activities help first-year students build relationships and become more involved at NIU.
Mitzelfelt and her students visited the garden where they collected produce that was then donated to local pantries in the area. The goal of this TLC is to prepare College of Health and Human Sciences students as they begin their journeys toward becoming health and human services professionals. Service projects like these are excellent ways to engage these early professionals within the community.
Part of the TLC experience allows students to take field trips to areas that relate to their TLC.
Instructor Stephanie Kummerer and peer leader Emily Howard, of the Making a Difference: Service in Society TLC, ventured to the Northern Illinois Food Bank with their TLC students to volunteer and learn about the inner workings of the food bank. This allowed the students to gain some information on how nonprofits are run and gave them an opportunity to interact with one another outside of the classroom.
Other TLC students and their peer leaders are working to build relationships with one another and smooth the transition to college life.
Katlyn Luebke, peer leader for the Exploring Health Majors TLC, has taken her students to Aspen Leaf Frozen Yogurt and an apple orchard near DeKalb over the course of the fall semester. These experiences encouraged her students to interact with one another and also allowed them to explore the surrounding DeKalb community.
The Exploring Health Majors TLC consists of students pursuing degrees in nursing, pre-physical therapy, public health, nutrition and dietetics and pre-medical laboratory sciences. Luebke’s friendly demeanor is helping these future health professionals to build friendships with students who share common interests.
Peer leaders from several TLCs have teamed to create events that bring all of their students together.
Business & Society TLC peer leader Alisha Davies, along with peer leaders Dan Jeffries and Tyler Stringer of the Pre-Professional Health and Calculus I & Physics I TLCs, traveled to the Plank Road Apple Orchard in Sycamore. This allowed for students from different TLCs to meet and interact with one another outside of the classroom.
The peer leaders have worked hard this semester to make sure their students are acclimating to their first semester of college; in the name of fun, the peer leaders will host Movie Night in the Castle Wednesday, Oct. 29, and an event Monday, Nov. 3, in the Huskies Den of the Holmes Student Center
TLCs provide students with a unique learning experience as TLC instructors work together to develop Integrative Assignments that link all TLC courses to a common theme. These interdisciplinary learning opportunities help students to make connections between their majors or areas of interests and General Education requirements.
Aside from TLCs, peer mentors are utilized in several programs across campus. These include First Year Composition peer advocates, Research Rookies peer leaders and Huskie Service Scholars peer mentors. The positive role of peer mentors in campus programs allows students to receive support in their first year while giving the peer mentor an opportunity to take on roles of leadership and improve professional development.
Want to become a peer leader? Look for opportunities this spring.
For more information, call (815) 753-8154 or email [email protected].