Business and Technology Living Learning Community: Bridging the Gap for College Freshmen

Posted: February 14, 2023 12:00:00 AM CST

Feeling prepared is often the hardest part of adjusting to college life for incoming freshmen. In fact, one out of five freshmen don’t return to school for their sophomore year. At the University of Nebraska at Kearney, students are given the opportunity to beat these odds by having the option of living in a creatively designed environment during their first year of college. For Brenda Jochum, who is in charge of making the College of Business and Technology’s Living Learning Community (LLC) a unique experience for business and technology students, her job is a work of the heart. She wants “them to know that they’re important” and that UNK cares “that they’re here.” Although the College of Business & Technology’s LLC has existed for a few years, this past fall semester Jochum implemented a program to help students develop positive connections that she knows will help them transition from high school to college.LLC Students with Dean Jares 

Jochum, who holds a master’s degree in Youth Development, started working with this year’s freshmen before they ever stepped foot on UNK’s campus for the fall semester. A certified CliftonStrengths coach, she shared the assessment with her LLC students last summer. When they arrived at their rooms, they found signs on their doors indicating their individual strengths. While it is advantageous for the students to have an awareness of their suitemate’s strengths, another purpose, according to Jochum, is for each student to “engage in their natural talents to gain confidence in who they are and the potential that they bring” to UNK.

Jochum enjoys informal meetings with the students as it’s during these times that she helps them navigate their freshmen year. She has been able to help them with issues such as getting into the right classes, figuring out if they have chosen a wrong one, and advocating for what they need during this stage of their college career. She states that “being able to really work with them more on a personal level has been really rewarding to me.”

According to Carsten Fox, who is a UNK student currently living in this LLC, the work Jochum is doing has made a difference in his life as a college student. As one of the thirty-four students who call this LLC home, one of the best advantages he has experienced is that “everybody is connected. Everyone knows one another.” Fox appreciates the fact that there is always a friend from class just down the hall if he needs someone to study with. Because so many of these LLC students are taking the same classes, group projects are a breeze because most members of the group live within a few feet of each other.Holiday Party

Although Fox admits it’s “so much easier to do homework” with his classmates living close by, a fact which he states is “a huge advantage,” he notes other beneficial opportunities outside of the dorm. At a donut and coffee mixer, students were able to interact with professors which allowed them to explore other academic possibilities. He shares that this can lead to students choosing a double major or a minor thanks to the opportunity to informally learn about the wide variety of programs available at UNK.

It’s not all about academics though. When Jochum learned from students that they wanted to meet more frequently, she started planning more social activities for them, like a Pizza and Wii Sports Night, to end the fall semester. This strategic design, which Jochum has brought to fruition this year, makes the high school-to-college transition a breeze for the students fortunate enough to live in this LLC.

Jochum and Fox both acknowledge the role CliftonStrengths has played in the success of this LLC. Fox explains that students need to know they’re only going to “get out what they put in” but, if they learn about their strengths, they will “be way ahead.” He suggests that learning about CliftonStrengths will help students with soft skills as well as the skills they will one day use in their higher-level classes. Jochum couldn’t agree more. As a certified coach, she appreciates the chance to give the students who live in this LLC a “deep dive into CliftonStrengths.” This resource development tool, which has been around for half a century, allows students a chance to form strong foundations which they will not only build upon throughout their school experience but take with them into the real world after graduation.Brenda with a student

This year’s LLC students, who represent a combined total of twelve different business and technology majors, have already met with Dean Jares, attended a session on time management, and worked on upgrading their high school resume to a college resume. Jochum’s goal for this year’s group was to create an environment where they would “stand out and be the best prepared” for all UNK has to offer them. She made sure they entered this year knowing their strengths and is now teaching them how to best use that knowledge.

As good as the fall semester was, Jochum has big plans for the future of this LLC. She understands that emerging adults “want to have a voice” while engaging in activities that are purposeful as well as enjoyable. One of her goals for the future is to incorporate more student-to-student and career mentoring for her students. She is grateful that her students are now “more aware of resources” available to them and hopes they can “pay it forward” to the next cohort of incoming LLC students.

Fox, who wants this LLC to thrive, has expressed an interest in becoming a mentor for next year’s incoming freshmen. He has seen how “having this LLC is kind of like one big family” where you’re given “everything you can ask for to thrive in college.” He wants to share the gift he has been given with others. In his own words, he is “so glad that (he) filled out the scholarship for it.” He wants to help other students find their way to this incredible opportunity that Jochum has made possible at UNK.

The College of Business & Technology’s Living Learning Community, located on the second floor of Centennial Towers West, is one of the many hidden gems at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The chance to live in a community with people who have similar interests as you is simply not something a college freshman should pass up. Contact Brenda Jochum for more information.

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By: Sandy Brannan

Category: Marketing, General, Business and Technology

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