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Engineering students take initiative to create an LLC that lasts beyond Freshman year

Elissa Sanci

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When Sophia Oselador, an electrical engineering major living in the Living Learning Community on the second floor of Westside Hall, realized that she wouldn’t be given the option to live in another LLC her sophomore year, she decided that something had to be done.

Oselador, along with multiple other freshman students utilizing the University of New Haven’s LLC living option, feels that living among peers with similar majors and interests is crucial to a successful academic career.

“I’ve made so many friends and networking connections just by living here,” Oselador said about her LLC living arrangement. “I feel like we’re one big team; we think alike, we have the same passions, and it’s an academic motivation to do homework and stay involved.”

The office of Residential Life offers these Living Learning Communities to first year students to “promote an atmosphere that aids in enhancing the first year residential experience while supporting academic success,” according to the university’s website.

Because of the importance Oselador placed on LLCs, she, with the help of help of civil engineering professor Jean Nocito-Gobel, Computer Science major Rob Schmicker and Civil Engineering major

Dan Delgado, created an online survey that she distributed to freshman students. Oselador surveyed over 100 students; 87 percent of participants agreed that they’d want their LLCs to continue past freshman year.

“I started to get involved with the engineering department and I realized that, as a girl engineer, I was making friends with a whole bunch of guys and couldn’t room with them,” Oselador said. Soon after she realized that living in close proximity to her friends and fellow engineering majors, she had the idea to petition for the continuation of the living learning communities past freshman year.

“I worked with the Dean of Engineering’s Assistant Paula Hackenjos [for class assignments], and that’s when I met Dan Delgado and a few other people who tutor within the LLC,” Oselador said. “I started asking them about my idea and they said ‘yes, they would have loved to do it’, and when I realized that upper classmen that had already moved out of the LLC that have previously lived in it would still want to be in it up to their senior year, I was like ‘isn’t this something to consider?’”

Delgado, sophomore student coordinator with the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network at the university, took interest in Oselador’s project when she first approached him about it. Delgado lived in an Engineering LLC his first year on campus, and loved the atmosphere.

As student coordinator for the KEEN program, Delgado utilizes his free time by visiting students in the Westside Engineering LLC to tutor as well as interest and discuss with any KEEN related objective or goal. The KEEN program was founded to foster an entrepreneurial mindset within engineering students, and the program facilitates activities and coordinates events centered on this mindset to enhance that within students.

“Sophia and Rob would, without fail, every Tuesday and Thursday, come see me for the hour or two that I was there, and in one way or another try to participate, interact and discuss any KEEN related objective or goal and that eventually kick-started the LLC project,” Delgado said. “It was a simple question. Sophia asked “Can I be in the LLC next year?” It started with a question and then we turned that question that had the answer no into a project that could turn it into a yes.”

Delgado encouraged Oselador with her project, but gave her free reign with it. “I wanted her to spearhead the project because it was her idea and I feel that she deserved most, if not all, of the credit for the idea and because she’s very passionate about it, she would have the greatest lead in the project.”

Delgado added that Schmicker, a freshman also living in the LLC with Oselador, was as equally active and participative in the process; however, Delgado felt as though he and Schmicker “let her lead and [they] were there to support her and help her on the way.”

Oselador and Schmicker met with Delgado twice weekly in the fall semester to work on this project; once the survey was created, Nocito-Gobel looked over the questions before Oselador began surveying participants. The surveys found that an overwhelming amount of students said that not only would they want to continue to live in an LLC past their freshman year, but that the LLC option also influenced their decision to attend UNH.

However, Oselador’s project had not been approved by the Office of Residential Life or the university.

“Anytime a survey goes out to students, it does have to be approved by the university,” Becca Kitchell, director of residential student advocacy and educational partnerships, said. “That approval process is fairly lengthy and does require specific paper work as well as background information that ensures that the student’s health and safety is taken into consideration.”

Kitchell met with Nocito-Gobel; Maria-Isabel Carnasciali, the current advisor to the engineering LLC; Caitlin Pereira, the area coordinator of Westside Hall; the two RAs who are currently working with the engineering LLC; and Delgado, as the student coordinator of the KEEN program, and this is where she first heard of Oselador’s survey.

“Dan established that the survey had been started as a class project, at which point our ears and interests perked up because we weren’t aware of such a thing,” Kitchell said. Kitchell and Nicole McGrath, Associate Dean for Residential Life & Housing, expressed that they didn’t want to put out the same survey twice and didn’t want to saturate students’ inboxes with repetitive questions; however, they did offer to put some of Oselador’s questions on their yearly LLC survey that is sent out mid-semester.

“[The question of whether or not to continue LLC’s on to sophomore year] was put out to students a few years back and most students said ‘yes we would want it,’” Kitchell said. “However they would not be interested in the buildings that would facilitate the LLCs. Students wanted apartment style and only want to be in LLCs in buildings like Celentano, but those buildings don’t promote engagement like the suite style set-up in Botwinik or Bethel.”

Kitchell and McGrath received a similar request last year when the students in the Music LLC showed interest in continuing on living in an LLC arrangement. However, once they were informed that the only option to house the LLC was, once again, in Botwinik, the music students no longer wanted to continue on with it.

Kitchell and McGrath are not opposed to the extension of the LLC; however, there were a lot of unanswered questions that they had, especially because they never received a formal request for the continuation of the LLC past freshman year from the engineering LLC faculty advisor.

“Let’s make sure that if we’re going to do something, we’re going to do this right,” Kitchell said. “In our experience, we found that if you put something out to the students and then aren’t able to accommodate, students become very disappointed.”

They requested that an official request and application be filled out before this was revisited, but never heard anything about this again after that.

“It’s not a matter of it can’t happen; it’s a matter of it needs to be done in the right way,” Kitchell said. “If it something that they want to be considered for next year, when the application rolls out in April, I think that we and the LLC Advisory Board are willing to read applications.”

The LLC Advisory board created the application process a few years back. This board discusses applications that are submitted by the faculty advisor.

Applications are sent out with a two to three page guidelines. Questions that need to be answered within the application by the faculty advisor include what are the goals, who are the membership, how will this impact students, how will learning occur outside of the classroom and how will you facilitate that learning.

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Engineering students take initiative to create an LLC that lasts beyond Freshman year