Irvis Hall

School of Education Sponsors a Living Learning Community for First-year Students

Beginning in fall 2024, the University of Pittsburgh School of Education will sponsor a new Living Learning Community (LLC) designed to empower undergraduate students as innovators and difference makers on campus and in their future careers.

Located in Irvis Hall, the Education, Leadership, and Social Change LLC will offer a specialized living environment within the residence hall for 420 first-year students at Pitt. As LLC residents, students can engage in programming that explores themes related to critical leadership, identity development, social justice, community involvement, and equity-informed social change. 

“Research shows that students who live in LLCs generally have greater educational gains, satisfaction with their college experience, connections to peers and faculty, and retention,” says Max Schuster, associate professor of practice at Pitt Education. “Sponsoring this LLC puts the School of Education in a new space to offer unique, beneficial opportunities for students.”

Pitt offers more than 17 first-year LLCs centered on distinct themes or academic interest areas to help undergraduate students transition to the university while gaining connections within the campus and Pittsburgh communities. Other academic units with communities for first-year students include the College of Business Administration, David C. Frederick Honors College, Swanson School of Engineering, School of Nursing, and School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

The School of Education partnered with Pitt’s Residence Life and Leadership Development Offices to create the new LLC. The idea formed after conversations between Schuster, Micalee Sullivan, assistant director of academic engagement in the Office of Residence Life, and Lynne Miller, associate director of leadership development in the Division of Student Affairs.

“We started talking about connecting to this theme of not only education but leadership development as well,” says Sullivan. “Centering that through a self-reflective social justice lens aligned closely with the goals that we have for the LLCs.”

First-year students can express their interest in living in this community when completing their housing application. The School of Education offers undergraduate majors in teacher education, exercise science, applied developmental psychology, and a five-year bachelor’s/master’s program in special education.

“Education is such an interdisciplinary field that students, regardless of their major, are going to see connections in the different programming we’re offering in those areas of education, leadership development, and social change,” says Schuster.

Students in the LLC will gain access to Pitt Education leadership development coursework, speaking engagements, and other events. Schuster envisions a variety of opportunities for Pitt Education graduate students and faculty members to engage with the LLC. 

“This becomes an avenue for us to have a greater presence within the first-year student community,” says Schuster. “This connection could show students how the School of Education can be a home for them, whether it’s a second major, minor, or certificate, or taking a course related to equity and justice.”

Additionally, LLC residents will have the opportunity to participate in the Panther Leadership Academy, a 20-week program offered by the Leadership Development Office.

“Panther Leadership Academy provides a curriculum to assist undergraduate students in discovering and developing their personal capacity to lead effectively and inclusively,” says Miller. “Students engage in topics including communication styles, social identities, group dynamics, values, career connections, confronting biases, and community engagement, amongst others.

By creating a residential community with both academic and campus resource partnerships, Sullivan says that the Education, Leadership, and Social Change LLC will open many opportunities for students to engage with people they may not otherwise meet. 

“It gives students a structure for being part of a dynamic community that connects them to peers, professors, staff, and the greater Pittsburgh community,” says Sullivan. “For a first-year student who might not have found their place yet, or is trying to explore their interests in an academic or social sense, an LLC is a great introduction to that.”