By: Justin Fabiano
Hunter Banks lives on the ninth floor of Columbia Hall, but his floor isn't just a regular floor. It's a part of the Journalism Associated Learning Community.
An Associated Learning Community is associated with an academic department. Students with similar majors live on the same floor, attend University 101 together, and even attend some major specific classes together.
"We have classes together, we're a family, we know everybody," Banks said. "I mean even if we don't all stay in the community next year, we're still going to be friends, we're still going to hang out on the weekends."
The associated learning communities also help freshmen talk to professors. It's one of the scariest things a freshman will do, but if you live in a learning community, you don't have to go to them, they will come to you.
"I've been able to interact with Dr. Pardun [Director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications], and we had a professor come speak to us a week ago about social media," Banks said.
The communities' resident mentors joined the communities when they were freshmen.
"Since I have been in their position a year ago, that it's easier to relate to what's going on about things that are happening with classes and that sort of stuff," resident mentor Chris Brown said.
"[Resident mentors] have really helped and guided us where we need to go to be successful," Banks said.
Banks' associated learning community, like many other first-year communities, is only two years old, and some say it still has room to grow.
"Part of our vision of where we're going as a program is involving students more in their experience, and less direct top down 'here's this program I hope you like it'," Hilary Lichterman, Associate Director of Residential Learning Initiatives said.
Banks said he'd like to see more faculty interaction in his community, and Lichterman was glad to hear about his concern.
"We want to continue to work with faculty," Lichterman said. "Right now, many of our communities have a few partners, and we would like to expand that family."
USC's Housing service also plans on expanding it's learning communities in other ways.
"It's my vision to make sure we have upper class community leaders in addition to our resident mentor position that we have a variety of leadership positions," Lichterman said. "Some of our communities may shift [locations] due to renovations and other projects so that we can continually improve."