The School of Education & Human Development (SEHD) has started two new learning communities for undergraduate students: the Curious Teacher Learning Community, focused on changing lives through teaching in culturally and linguistically diverse settings, and the bilingual Familias y Justicia, or Families and Justice Learning Community, focused on effectively serving culturally and linguistically diverse individuals and families.
What is a learning community? Ours begin with a group of connected courses in students’ freshman year and extend across their sophomore and junior years. These communities offer SEHD students the chance to combine educational experiences, co-curricular experiences and service learning in a high-impact, theme-based program while supporting college graduation goals.
Learning communities help students integrate into university life, tap into their passion for a discipline or theme, and support long-lasting friendships with fellow students and faculty. Eight learning communities are organized through CU Denver’s Office of Undergraduate Experiences led by Jeff Franklin, associate vice chancellor for undergraduate experiences.
“This notion of how to really construct high-quality curriculum that is engaging and interconnected for students, and that pulls them into communities, is something very familiar to us in education,” said Barbara Seidl, associate dean for teacher education and undergraduate experiences at SEHD. “We are really striving for participants to feel a true sense of belonging to the university community, a sense of connection to their profession and an overarching joy and passion for improving the world.”
Each learning community is based on a common big idea and driving question. The central question to the Curious Teacher Learning Community is “How can I learn about children’s learning?” And the central question to Familias y Justicia/Families and Justice is “How can I support diverse families and communities?”
Most learning community participants start freshman year by taking three common courses together. Transfer students may enter the community at any point. As undergraduates progress in their studies, they encounter additional courses, community-based field experiences and numerous learning events and programs. All of these touchpoints are designed to keep the essential learning community themes and questions top of mind. Welcome barbecues, book studies, faculty lectures, research presentations and on- and off-campus service learning experiences are all part of the mix of scholarly activities.
Bobbi Rucker is a dedicated member of the Curious Teacher Learning Community. “I am proud and thankful to be a part of this astonishing teacher education program!” said Rucker. “I’m so happy with it in terms of preparation, community support and enjoyment. I know that any challenge can be overcome with the support and love that resides within our community. The faculty is very open and empathetic; they gladly provide students with whatever they may need to be successful. There is not a better group of people that I could wish to have by my side in the pursuit of my dreams to become an elementary school teacher.”
Brie Ann Mondragon, student president of Familias y Justicia/Families and Justice for the coming year, thinks that it’s vital for undergrads to be in learning communities. Her learning community is designed for students in the Human Development and Family Relations program. “Not only does it provide life, work and school experience, but it also connects undergrads with other students, faculty, staff, professors, the community and priceless resources,” said Mondragon. “One of the best things about Familias y Justicia is that we do our best to give everyone a voice. And, being involved in a learning community is a great way to make sure your voice is heard.” Mondragon hopes to become a university leader in student affairs someday, after pursuing a master’s degree. With this program, she’s already learning so much about what it means to lead in university life. “I joined the Family and Justice Learning Community because I know that together, we can make a positive impact,” said Mondragon. “Professor Ruben Viramontez Anguiano is such a driving force and is so inspirational. I knew that getting involved in one of his programs would be fun, beneficial and produce amazing results for our school and community. I love the teamwork, planning and then getting to see the products of our hard work.”
“I am confident these two learning communities will thrive,” said Seidl. “I know how hard the faculty leadership and student teams have been working to imagine and shape vibrant and collaborative experiences for our students. Our students are truly engaged … in heart and mind.”
To learn more about CU Denver’s undergraduate majors and minors in teaching and the Human Development and Family Relations program, please visit www.ucdenver.edu/education.