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RU learning communities help students adjust, make friends and excel.

The first year at college can be anxious for anyone - friends and family back home, starting over as a freshman (just a few months ago you were a senior!), tough classes and a tight schedule.

But it doesn't have to be.

Many Rowan majors and programs have developed learning communities in which students in similar disciplines share a room, suite or dormitory floor and take classes together so they can rapidly develop friendships and form study groups.

Sweetening the incentive to join the College of Engineering's learning community, incoming freshmen may receive a four-year scholarship of up to $3,000.

"The way the scholarships work, anybody who gets accepted is considered," said Dr. Jess Everett, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "We then rank by family financial need and offer grants to replace loans."

Dr. Everett said a National Science Foundation award provides funding for about 50 four-year scholarships for freshmen starting in 2009 and 2010 (about 25 per year) who take part in the learning community program. While the scholarships are largely based on financial need they may also go to students from groups historically underrepresented in engineering, such as women and some minorities.

Once enrolled in the program students take two classes together for each of their first two semesters.

"The idea is to encourage students to form bonds with their peers so they're studying together and are comfortable with one another," Dr. Everett said.

In addition to sharing classes and a dorm, students take part in a series of activities designed to focus their interest in engineering and give them insight into what awaits sophomore, junior and senior year. Included among these are visits to junior and senior clinics, semester or yearlong engineering classes that are a hallmark of the program.

Freshman Charles Calimer, 19, of Galloway Township, said the learning community program helped him settle right in.

"I was already going to come to Rowan but I knew through the program I'd meet people right away," he said.

Jamie Coulter, 19, of Audubon, and Charlotte Cecere, 19, of Buena, said the learning community program fostered a support network among students that they use all the time.

"Engineering is tough but you feel you're not alone in trying to get the degree," Jamie said.

Said Charlotte: "The best part for me is when we do lab work. We all have the same homework so it's good to try and work out problems together."

Other communities

Rowan University has embraced the concept of learning communities and students from at least nine majors and programs, including Honors, History, and Radio/Television/Film, can participate in them.

For more information about learning communities at Rowan, speak with the professionals in Student Affairs or visit the learning communities web site.

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