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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

September 23, 2005

ISU learning communities rank among nation's best

by Dan Kuester

The learning communities program at Iowa State is celebrating a decade of success and is listed among the top 25 nationally in a recent U.S. News & World Report ranking. There was no order given for the top 25 schools on the list.

"Our strength is in the way student affairs and academic affairs work together," said Doug Gruenewald, co-director with Corly Brooke of learning communities. "We've been able to bring faculty and staff together across disciplines to create effective learning environments for students. When faculty and staff work closely with first-year students to connect learning across multiple classes, and outside of classrooms, it makes for a more powerful learning experience.

"Iowa State's graduation and retention rates are some of the best in the country for learning community programs," Gruenewald said.

Learning communities offer students, mostly freshmen, the opportunity to join a group of other newcomers who share similar academic interests. The group can study together, learn together, adjust together and, in many cases, socialize together.

What's ahead

When ISU started the program in 1995, about 400 students joined one of the 12 communities offered at the time.

Now, more than 2,200 students of all classifications choose to join one of the more than 50 learning communities, with approximately 50 percent of all ISU freshmen participating.

While the communities continue to gain popularity and national reputation, Gruenewald and Brooke aren't finished yet.

"We hope to have a learning community for every student who wants one," Gruenewald said.


"Iowa State's graduation and retention rates are some of the best in the country for learning community programs."

Doug Gruenewald