So Happy Together – Themed learning a plus on campus

Year after year, aside from exams, move-in day proves to be one of the most overwhelming and stressful days of the semester. What better way to ease the tension of move-in day than by joining a floor filled with other freshman who all share similar interests? Mines’ five themed learning communities provide this opportunity to the students lucky enough to be selected to live on the designated floors.

Incoming freshman can apply to anywhere from one to all five floors over the summer before they begin at Mines through the housing application process. A selection committee then reviews the applications and determines which students will be given the opportunity to live on each floor.

Themed learning communities are relatively new to Mines. In fact, this year marks only the second year that themed learning has existed on the Mines campus. “At an engineering school where there are only 15 or so majors to select, having themed learning communities is a daunting task but also a very rewarding one,” Connor Rust said, a sophomore and the Resident Assistant for Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) themed learning community. “So, even though this is only the second year I think this is something that will continue at Mines and have benefits reaped from.”

Freshman Kathryn Regas loves the themed learning this year. Regas decided to apply for the VPA themed learning community, which is housed in Maple Hall, in order to nurture her more creative side. “I knew that it would be nice to be in a place where people understood that I could be mostly math driven and still have an artsy, musical side,” Regas said. “I was worried that I would lose touch with that side way too easily at a school like this if I didn’t have those kind of people surrounding me.”

When Regas first moved-in, she felt a bit in over her head, but ultimately found her themed learning community rewarding. “I was like, is this going to be a year full of craziness? And, it turned out yes, but in a really good way,” Regas said. “Moving into this new environment is scary, and when you have that comfort tying you in, your arts are tying you to other people and keeping you grounded, it makes it a lot more bearable. Fun. It makes it a lot more fun. This is a fun experience.”

Evelyn Von Nieda, freshman and member of the Women’s Leadership themed learning community in Morgan Hall, had a similar experience to Regas. “At first, and I’m going to be honest, I was a little bit overwhelmed,” Von Nieda said. “[But] now I just like all of the girls on my floor. I feel comfortable going into each room and talking to them whenever. It’s really nice. I like that community aspect.”

The themed learning communities moved in a day earlier than the majority of students. On the mass move in day the communities took a day trip to downtown Denver for group activities and floor bonding. Men’s Leadership, which is housed in Aspen Hall, and Women’s Leadership joined forces and raced around downtown Denver in a scavenger hunt. Orediggers Paying it Forward, a service based community housed in Weaver Towers, visited Congress. The VPA community toured the Denver Performing Arts Center and explored downtown Denver. The Adventure Leadership Community (ALC), housed in Maple Hall, took a more adventurous route to bonding than the other floors. Some of the incoming freshmen moved in earlier than everyone else and partook in a multi-day backpacking trip. The ALC freshmen that did not move in early traveled to a local ropes course for a day of team building. These trips provided extra bonding times that other, non-themed floors did not experience. “I feel like we’re a little bit more of a community than the other halls,” Von Nieda said. “I have friends in other halls and when I go over there they know people across from them or right next to them, but I feel like I know my entire hall.”

Regas holds a similar view of other floors to Von Nieda. “I really wonder how much socializing happens on a non-themed-learning floor, because we had those first couple days where we did things together, and it was just natural,” Regas said. “We had this forced interaction, and because of that we all got to know each other a lot better.”

However, themed learning communities can have a downside, depending on individual perspectives. “Quiet hours don’t quite exist,” Regas said of her VPA floor. “I think that our version of quiet hours kind of don’t exist until about 11, which is sometimes a bummer seeing as sometimes I’m ready for quiet hours at like 10. That’s the biggest disadvantage.”

An instant group of friends who share similar interests seems to be the overarching benefit of themed learning communities. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I have any friends not on this floor,” Regas said. “Yeah, no I don’t have any friends not on this floor.”

Regas believes the biggest advantage to themed learning is having a group of people who understand each other. “I’ve heard a couple people on the north side of the floor call us the ‘High School Musical’ floor,” Regas said. “They obviously don’t get it. If one of them were living next door to us they would hate that we sing all the time. We all understand it and appreciate it and so being able to have someone who appreciates the things that are important to you is really nice.”

Regas and Von Nieda agree that incoming freshman should apply for themed learning communities. “I would say apply,” Von Nieda said. “If you decide that you want to do it in the very end, you can always say no. I really have enjoyed it and I wasn’t super convinced that I wanted to do it at first. I would say, why not?”

“I would say go for it,” Regas said, “Because if it’s something that you legitimately care about, it will make you feel so much more at home.”

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