“The CFAES Learning Community: A Home Away from Home”

 

The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Learning Community members Claire Meyer and Bethany Starlin enjoy themselves at the ice-skating social event.

By Lindsey Okuley
agricultural communication student

 As the doors to the elevator slide open, a barrage of noise immediately meets your ear drums. The brightly colored walls match the energized amalgam of noise streaming from both sides of the floor.

Both young men and women share their day’s tales of aggravation, success and anything in between. Floor two of Nosker House, as usual, is bustling with lively inhabitants sharing one another’s company.

This dorm at The Ohio State University is home to the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Learning Community (LC). Students majoring in the college are invited to apply to this community to live with fellow agricultural students.

As the first Learning Community at Ohio State, the CFAES LC is supported directly by the college. Under the direction of the college staff and Nosker House residence staff, the Learning Community has thrived for many years.

Currently, around 90 first and second-year students are living in the community on campus. These students share similar majors, interests and a deep passion for the agricultural industry.

“I’ve never worked with a group of students like this LC’s individuals who care so much about their career and have so much passion for the work that they do,” said Kyle Hovest, residence hall director of the Barrett-Nosker complex.

The CFAES Learning Community is a co-curricular experience bridging the gap between classroom learning and out-of-class experiences at college. More importantly, for students new to Ohio State, the LC provides a community that feels like a home away from their hometown.

Purpose
This home away from home serves many purposes for those students living in the community.

The first purpose most often mentioned is the pursuit of building community and comradery amongst LC members. Too often, students living in dorms feel isolated from others living in their hall, as they have few shared involvement opportunities to participate in.

The CFAES Learning Community eliminates this issue by housing members in the same dorm. Additionally, members of the LC have meetings and engagement opportunities provided through the community to get to know their peers and develop lasting friendships.

“My new friends are especially nice to have when I’m struggling in class or just need someone to talk to,” said current LC member Emma Gurney.

Additionally, students in the Learning Community are given opportunities to network outside of the community.

Many events are held to allow members opportunities to personally meet faculty and staff from the college. At times, students even have opportunities to connect with agricultural business professionals, as well.

“I think a benefit is simply getting to continue making connections outside of the classroom, both with each other as well as with the faculty and staff. It’s just an opportunity to get everyone in the same room,” said Hovest.

All of these connections made through the Learning Community will prove useful beyond the students’ years at Ohio State.

The second purpose of the Learning Community is to allow both personal and career development amongst LC members.

“We have monthly meetings where we try to bring in different resources from across campus to help build you and your leadership and soft skills areas,” said CFAES Learning Community academic partner, Sarah Williams.

Through workshops in stress management, career readiness and much more, students are able to develop their personal and career skill sets.

The third purpose of the Learning Community, pertaining specifically to first-year members, is to offer an easier transition to Ohio State. Many students in the CFAES LC originate from rural American towns and villages so transitioning to a large campus can prove challenging to some.

“The LC is a place that makes a really big place feel small, helps with transition and helps make Columbus seem less intimidating for those who are not familiar with a big city feel,” said Hovest.

Finally, the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Learning Community offers students the chance to become more involved in the college. As a result of increased networking opportunities, members of the LC are introduced to more involvement positions within the college.

“There’s a variety of ways that I think individuals just feel more connected to the college, and they get more connected with staff who then are shoulder-tapping them to be a part of these different initiatives,” said Hovest.

Activities
The various benefits found through membership in the CFAES Learning Community come from participation in a variety of yearly LC activities.

First, the Learning Community conducts monthly meetings in a Nosker House meeting room. At these meetings, members gather to eat, catch up on current Learning Community happenings and most importantly, participate in an engaging workshop.

These workshops help students learn skills and tricks not necessarily taught in the classroom such as financial management tips, resume building steps and other various topics.

“One meeting, they brought in Adam Cahill from the career department and he really helped answer my questions about making a resume and how to act in an interview,” said Gurney.

The second type of events held by the LC are faculty meet-and-greets. At this event, students are able to question and personally interact with various staff members from the college.

This event offers a chance for students to network with upper-level CFAES faculty members. Through this new connection, students are often introduced to opportunities within the college and their careers they previously hadn’t been aware of.

The final events conducted by the Learning Community are social events and field trips. Students often favor these events over other LC activities, as they are fun and relaxed events serving the purpose of cultivating friendship between members. Additionally, field trips offer an opportunity for members to apply their classroom knowledge to an out-of-class experience.

Previous social events have included square dancing, ice skating, cookie decorating and other fun activities. One field trip is offered each semester. This fall, the LC took a trip to Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

“I especially liked the trip to Young’s Dairy. I grew up showing cattle so it was nice to get out of Columbus and see something as familiar as a farm full of dairy cows,” said Gurney.

Requirements
As with any club or organization, the Learning Community also has its own set of requirements members need to fulfill.

One such requirement is consistent event attendance.

“There’s what we call a Learning Community agreement that students agree to at the beginning of the semester saying students will attend so many events throughout the year,” said Williams.

In addition to attendance, second-year members have an additional responsibility added on after their first year in the LC.

“A requirement of second-year students that we have is that you participate in your committees, so you’re helping to plan out the activities that happen during fall semester,” said Williams.

Second-year students are selected to serve on certain LC committees throughout the year. These committees are responsible for planning and running a specific event throughout the course of the year.

Finally, the unspoken obligation asked of every LC member is to encourage an environment of acceptance and mutual assistance. Members should socialize, build rapport and work to help their LC fellow members.

So while floors two and three of Nosker House may be bursting with energy, there is so much more to hold accountable than friendly neighbors. Perhaps these students in the CFAES LC found a place where they simply feel like they belong. Perhaps this place even serves as their home away from home.

“Joining the LC was definitely the best decision I’ve made and I don’t regret a single part of it,” said Gurney.

 

This feature story was written by Lindsey Okuley, an agricultural communication student enrolled in the Agricultural Communication 2531 course during the 2019 Autumn Semester. Dr. Joy Rumble instructed the course.

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