Date of Defense




First Advisor

Randy Ott, Communication

Second Advisor

Amy German, Residence Life

Third Advisor

Kate Bates, Residence Life


Learning communities began as a response to research that demonstrated among freshman students a disassociation between their courses, faculty, and the campus community. The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) encouraged their professionals to work towards a holistic undergraduate experience that cohesively uses in-class and out-of-class learning to create a co-curricular learning environment (Zeller 1998). The purpose of this thesis is to provide a general history of student affairs professionals' research and involvement with the first-year students in regards to programs specifically designed to promote personal and academic growth, specifically the evolving idea of a learning community. Current literature that researches the origins, structure and execution of numerous first-year learning communities will be analyzed to provide a broad context on which to flesh out the popular theories and models for development for the first-year student. Particularly interesting in this analysis is the involvement of residence halls, which exhaustive research has shown stimulates incredible social integration on its own (Pascarella 1991). After discussing and defining the exclusion and inclusion of residence halls in learning communities, conclusions will be drawn from the research as well as proposals for further study. Finally, a generalized format of collaborative best-practice will be explained, and how it could relate to the mid-sized research-based institution Western Michigan University.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only