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Student Strives to Build Community at UC

Angela Schmidt is one of 54 of UC’s Learning Community Peer Leaders who are building on support systems to help freshmen succeed at UC.

Date: 3/2/2009
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
Angela Schmidt of Westerville, Ohio, says since the second grade, she knew her calling was to become an elementary school teacher.
Angela Schmidt
Angela Schmidt in the CECH Library

“I’ve never wanted to do anything else but teach,” says the 19-year-old UC sophomore, who’s majoring in early childhood education. “I attended a really small elementary school and just fell in love with it for some reason. So the little seed that was planted in second grade has just exploded.”

Schmidt, a Westerville Central High School graduate, also knew she was destined to pursue her education at the University of Cincinnati. Her brother, Aaron, graduated from UC last spring with a bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing. Angela came to UC to visit her big brother back when she was in eighth grade and says she fell in love with the campus. “I thought UC was large enough where I could have great opportunities, but not so big that I would get lost,” she says.

“I remember Turner Hall was really new when I first visited my brother here. I had visited other schools and seen their residence halls, and I just kept thinking that I wanted to go to UC and live in Turner Hall.” Schmidt moved into Turner Hall her freshman year and is now a Turner Hall resident advisor (RA) – a job for students to work as peer leaders on the floors of their residence halls.

Angela Schmidt

A self-described outgoing person, Schmidt, a student in the University Honors Program, was ready to dive into the college experience as she entered UC her freshman year, so she says she was surprised at how nervous she felt as she first settled in on campus. “Once I got the groove of things, though, I became comfortable very quickly.”

Schmidt credits her first-year learning community in early childhood education for helping her build the confidence to get her groove back. She is now one of 54 Learning Community Peer Leaders at UC that help students in learning communities build vital connections in and out of the classroom – connections meant to help them succeed both in academics and personal growth.

Pamela Person, director of the UC Center for First Year Experience (FYE) and Learning Communities, says as of last fall, there were more than 100 Learning Communities for first-year students, as well as seven learning communities for UC sophomores. The sophomore learning communities first got underway last fall. UC’s first-year learning communities will mark a decade on campus next fall.

UC’s Learning Communities are made up of students with shared academic interests who take two or more courses together. Person says that in addition to fueling the students’ academic interests, Learning Communities help students build stronger relationships with their professors, build friendships with classmates, and bring a small-town feel to a large research university.

“My Learning Community just kept getting so much closer and so much tighter,” says Schmidt. “My best friend, Amanda Bullar (an early childhood education major from Anderson Township), was a student in my learning community.

Angela Schmidt

“I still have classes with a lot of girls who were in my learning community my freshman year. These friendships are long-lasting and priceless,” Schmidt says.

Person says more than 1,300 UC students and seven colleges are participating in UC’s learning communities.

As a learning community peer leader, Schmidt works for the Center for First Year Experience and Learning Communities as a mentor to 10 students in an early childhood education learning community. The group meets for one hour, twice a week, outside the classroom for both social and academic activities. “I took them to the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) Library to show them the resources, and we’ve had a workshop on how to do citations, because they were a little nervous about doing citations correctly as they adjusted to their first quarter,” Schmidt says. “We do a lot of study games and study sessions.

“We also like to just hang out at a coffee shop on Jefferson Avenue, especially in the middle of exams,” Schmidt says. The learning community has also done service-related activities to benefit the age group they plan to teach in the future. The group created holiday activity bags for Christmas and Valentine’s Day to give to patients at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Schmidt says learning communities and the outside classroom activities require a commitment on the part of the student, a commitment that yields great benefits.

College is the best place, I think, to really develop who you are, because you’re surrounded by so much information, so many resources and so many cultures,” Schmidt says. “You’d be a fool to let it pass you by, so getting involved is crucial to maximizing your personal development.”

Center for First-Year Experience and Learning Communities

First-Year Experience Expo March 11

21st Century Learning at UC