About Us

A Brief History of Living & Learning in Community

UCA’s Tradition of Engaged Learning

Some of the best ideas happen when folks talk to each other.  In 1980, Dr. Norbert Schedler and then president, Jeff Farris, were discussing what could be done to meet the needs of a growing student population with exceptional abilities. How about setting up a special program for gifted students? Various models were looked at, faculty input was asked for, and by 1982, the UCA Board of Trustees approved the idea. The Honors College was born with 60 students, $600, and Dr. Schedler as its founding director.

The Honors College progressed for the next 13 years, growing in numbers, courses, and national prestige, when in 1995, Dean Sally A. Roden and then President Win Thompson were talking about all the students whose academic and social needs could not be met by the Honors College. How about setting up a program for students of many talents? As a result of these discussions, a feasibility study, and faculty recommendation, Hughes Residential College (HRC) opened in AY 1997-98 as Arkansas’ first living & learning community with faculty-in-residence. Dr. Jayme Millsap Stone became the first director of UCA’s Learning Communities and has been dedicated to their success since their founding. An apartment was built in Hughes Hall and aquatic ecologist Dr. Mike Mathis (with his golden retriever, Kai) moved in. That’s right, faculty members called academic directors, along with their families (and pets!) lived among the students in the residential colleges for many years. 

The number of residential college learning communities grew to four in total, and a program for commuter students was also introduced. Under Dr. Stone’s guidance, UCA’s learning communities have received national recognition. As a founding editor of the Journal of Learning Communities Research and an early leader of the National Learning Communities Project, Dr. Stone turned UCA’s learning communities into a national standard. Dr. Stone retired in 2023, capping off a career dedicated to helping students succeed through learning communities. At UCA, students in these programs continued to thrive. Student participants earned significantly higher GPAs and graduated at rates 10-12% higher than other students. Of course, when an idea works, there is an ethical obligation to extend the same opportunities for engaged learning to others. Consequently, the university has since expanded our living learning communities and remains the only institution in Arkansas to maintain a learning community system for over 25 years. Indeed, the living learning community program is now one of the most distinctive features of undergraduate education at UCA, as all freshmen take part in one of these distinct, vibrant programs. 

In today’s living learning community model, faculty and students still get to know one another both inside and outside of the classroom―at student programs, performances and social events, on the greens and in the courtyards, during service-learning and study abroad endeavors, while conducting undergraduate research, and in the lobbies, study spaces, and hallways of the residence hall. Each living learning community also has another fifteen faculty associates who teach UCA Core classes exclusively for students in their associated program.

Learning community students develop close relationships with their peers, are intellectually inspired by student-centered faculty, and have the honor and opportunity to give back to their communities by guiding a new class of freshmen as upper-class mentors, resident assistants and learning assistants.

Our motto is Finis Origine Pendet —the end depends on the beginning. UCA’s Living Learning Communities help students make a successful beginning by easing the academic and social transition from high school to university.