Thompson Learning Community provides support for students
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Sunday, December 15, 2013 17:12
The fourth floor of Kayser Hall is home to one the University at Omaha’s largest and most diverse program, Thompson Learning Community. From students zipping in and out of the floor’s computer lab to print off assignments before class to hordes of friends gossiping and studying together in one of the many classrooms that have been transformed into meeting spaces for students, the fourth floor of Kayser is always brimming with TLC scholars. The hall’s walls are plastered with a large Lego board, pictures of student leaders in the program and a dry-erase calendar that spells out the program’s schedule, making TLC’s floor in Kayser as colorful and unique as the students that encompass the program.
“I think students who actively participate in TLC find it to be a welcoming and supportive environment and program,” said Dusten Crichton, TLC’s director. “The faculty who have and do participate in the class offerings truly go the extra mile to engage students, and students find a sense of family when they connect with other students and the TLC staff.”
TLC is comprised of students who have received the Susan T. Buffett Foundation scholarship, a full-ride scholarship that covers five years of undergraduate coursework. With a total of 942 TLC students this year, the program has grown every year, welcoming 14 more freshman students into the program this year than last year.
Aiming to make the transition to college and entry into a field of study as smooth as possible, TLC saw 34 out of 68 students from their first year, 2008, graduate from UNO or another institution already, with nine who are expected to graduate at the end of the fall or spring semester. TLC has exceeded the graduation rate above the four year and six year average.
“TLC is patterned after other successful learning community models as it allows for scholastic development as well as personal development through strong connections with other scholars, faculty and staff,” Crichton said.
TLC’s success is due in part to the program requiring freshman and sophomore scholars to enroll in courses that are designed just for students of the program, each class only holding approximately 20 students to allow for better teacher-pupil relations. To build from their academic base, the program becomes a community by offering students philanthropy and social opportunities.
A large portion of TLC is devoted to a mentoring program, where freshman students are assigned one peer mentor that they meet with once a week during their first semester of college at a seminar course. During the class, the mentor builds personal relations with each freshman and teaches them their methods to being successful in college.
“My relationship with my mentees started off formal but instantly led to a friendship,” said Kiki Moore, who served as a mentor last year. “We had a relationship where I was a friend to them, but I also did my job. They realized I was goofy and real, so they opened up to me.”
Like many other TLC students, Moore wasn’t even considering attending college before receiving the Susan Buffet Scholarship and becoming a part of the Thompson Learning Community. Moore said TLC not only provided her the financial means to afford college, but also has helped her grow professionally, giving her leadership experience as a mentor and in planning different events for the scholars.
While Moore isn’t a first generation college student in her immediate family, many of the students in TLC are. Knowing this, the program has made initiatives to identify multiple ways to address issues during the first year of college and provides a support system and resources for social and scholastic support at UNO.
“To describe TLC in one sentence, I would say TLC is an agreement to support and care for the community while becoming a family that supports the scholars to help them recognize their self-worth,” Moore said.
Upcoming events for the scholars include a hayrack ride, an ice cream social and a scary movie night. Starting Nov. 1, they will begin a clothing drive. Recently, TLC participated in the Walk for Animals to further provide philanthropy opportunities for the students. The Buffet Foundation is also conducting a study on the program to observe why it has been so successful.
As far as I can tell, TLC will likely grow a little more,” Crichton said. “Once we have the results of the study that the foundation is conducting, we will look to bolster and improve those things that seem to make the most difference.”