My Experience as a Learning Community Coordinator

ali oku

By: Ali Oku Eastman, Biomedical Sciences ’17

When I got the letter that I would be the learning community coordinator (LCC) for the Honors Learning Community, I was filled with excitement and joy. I was a student in the learning community in the previous year and understood the importance of a learning community to incoming first-year students. Deep within this excitement and joy was also anxiety and fear since it was my first huge leadership position as an international student studying in the United States. With training offered by the Learning Community team and advice from the Honors Program staff and Zach Petzel, the previous LCC, I began my duties as an LCC. Working as an LCC enabled me to explore my skills as a leader, learn more about American culture and most especially, learn more about myself.

Since I began my education at Minnesota State University Mankato, I have taken several classes on leadership and mentorship. It was therefore interesting to put all the gained knowledge into practice as an LCC. My first duty during the first few weeks as an LCC was to create camaraderie among the incoming students. I was able to achieve this by creating events that fostered communication and dependence among the students. After this task was achieved, my job as an LCC became less intimidating and easier. The greatest leadership task I had as an LCC was to coordinate the Make a Difference Project, a service learning project that all Learning Communities on campus do annually. The Honors Learning Community helped conduct a food drive with the Echo Food Shelf. This event alone taught me more about leadership than I could have ever imagined. I learned the importance of trust, communication and future orientation. Without an effective strategy and reliable group members, it would have been impossible to conduct this event successfully. My experiences from this event allowed me to adjust my mentoring style to suit the students in my learning community.

In addition to developing my leadership skills, being an LCC helped me understand culture in the United States. Before beginning duties as a LCC, I used to think I was close to fully understanding the culture of Americans in Minnesota. I lived in Minnesota for about a year so I was quite confident I could handle any cultural situation I encountered in Minnesota. However, I was amazed by how much I didn’t know when I began my duties as an LCC. I could now see a culture that celebrated freedom in every aspect of life ranging from self-expression to academics. I could also point out cultural characteristics that were peculiar to students in the Honors Learning Community but not in other learning communities and vice versa. Without my interaction with the learning community, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see this.

My experience as an LCC is something I will never forget. I have learned more about myself in areas pertaining to my strengths and weaknesses. I believe that my duties as an LCC were also made easier because of the great support the students gave to me. At the end, I learned so much from them that it felt like I was a first-year student and they were all my mentors. This fall, I will be starting a new journey as an LCC for the new Honors Leadership & Civic Engagement Learning Community. I am very excited to utilize my previous experience to make the year a memorable one for the entire learning community and myself.

Our Experience on Honors Student Council

Lexi Becky
By: Becky Osborn (Sumner, IA; Cognitive Science, ’17) & Lexi Turgeon (Lonsdale, MN; Community Health, ’17

Entering freshman year, neither of us thought we would get very involved while we were adjusting to the university atmosphere. The first year was a great exploration of majors, the Honors Program, and ourselves. After we became more comfortable with the university and Honors throughout our first year, we decided to run for Honors Student Council (HSC) during our sophomore year. We were both involved in student council in high school, and our first year Learning Community Coordinator, Zack, encouraged us to run for HSC. We were excited to learn that our peers chose us as executive board members; Becky was elected as secretary and Lexi was elected vice president. We were excited to have the opportunity to make a real difference in the program, and we were initially intimidated by the number of opportunities that we could get involved in to improve the program .

Our first task of the year was preparing for the Honors Program review. Our meetings leading up to this point consisted of looking over our constitution and asking honors students what their opinions, concerns, and ideas about the program were. Two National Collegiate Honors Council board members visited our program on campus and held a meeting with students and asked lots of questions about what we would like to see changed. We talked about the different ways to reach global competency and the second-language requirement. We also talked about our retention rates and how to keep students involved. It was a very nice experience to meet with NCHC board members and to have them actually be interested in our thoughts.

Our feedback from the visiting board members came back just as we sent students to the NCHC national conference. Our president, Julia, and the other Honors students and faculty knew what to look for during the conference and returned with some wonderful ideas. In the months following their return, we discussed creating an engagement reward system and creating committees for special events or bigger tasks.

Much of what we did was successful. However, this year was still a learning experience for us. In April, we were invited to collaborate with the Social Justice Lecture Series to bring Dr. Nina Smart to campus.  This process taught us all how to collaborate with another group. We learned the challenges of collaborating over email and appreciated our weekly face-to-face meetings and the eagerness of other honors students to help. In the end, our event was successful; Dr. Smart gave an inspiring talk and we raised money for her organization. We learned a lot about the importance of team work and communication from this event.

Soon it was the end of April and we were ready to wrap up our year. We held elections in time to allow the newly elected executive board attend an all student meeting and an executive board meeting before their term begins. This was beneficial because we were able to communicate the status of our current projects and our hopes for next year.

Becky did not run for office and decided to allow new students fill her role on the executive board. She plans to be a very active Honors Student and expand what she has learned over the past year into further roles on campus and in the community.

Lexi was elected to be President next year, and she looks forward to working with the new executive board and expanding her leadership skills in this new position.

We hope to see all of the new first-year students and all returning students at the first HSC meeting in the fall!