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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014

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College of Fine Arts Residential Learning Community students learn Brazilian Drumming in a class taught by Eric Paton.

Photographer: Jessica Law

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Residential Learning Community builds creative connections


Starting college can be a difficult transition for some freshmen. Meeting new people, taking college-level courses and living in a residence hall can be stressful.

Ohio University eases that shift by offering Learning Communities. More than 2,500 students participate in programs that are specialized to reflect student needs and interests. The College of Fine Arts (COFA) Residential Learning Community (RLC) continues to grow and welcomed almost 100 new students this fall.

A Residential Learning Community differs from the typical Learning Community because it houses the freshmen in the same residence hall. This year COFA RLC participants live in Lincoln Hall.

Recently renovated, Lincoln Hall provides studio spaces, a piano, dance floor and computers, providing access to the diverse majors in the COFA. Along with living together, students frequently end up in many of the same classes. However, the only course required for the students participating in the RLC meets Fridays in Lincoln Hall.

The course takes students from different majors in the RLC and places them into one of four class times offered every Friday during the fall semester. Freshmen are encouraged to not only come together as a community, but to learn to think more critically and creatively about different approaches to a topic.

“The overview of the classes is to allow students to experience the arts and the creative process of making the arts with an interdisciplinary field, meaning that if you're a graphic designer you’re also taking a class with a theater student or an art student,” said RLC Seminar Instructor Jessica Law.

Law explained that the objective of the class is to touch on three different themes: connect, sustainability and the creative process.

Connect is a theme the COFA is promoting this year as a way for students to build community and get to know their peers. Sustainability is a University-wide initiative based in the Common Experience Project that will last until 2015, promoting local environmental awareness and action. The creative process applies to each COFA student regardless of their major or school.

Curricular and extracurricular activities are required for students to reflect on these themes. Extracurricular activities touch on students' ability to connect, requiring them to attend a certain number of fine arts events. Curricular assignments can consist of a variety of activities. Students work on a research project throughout the semester that looks at contemporary artists who work with sustainability. They also engage in group activities, like Brazilian drumming, a special type of group drumming.

“It’s a much more physical drumming, but it’s very responsive and you can do it with a large group of people. It’s very interactive and fun,” Law explained. “Some of the drums the students used are not made traditionally, they’re out of barrels. Again, we are pushing that notion of using recyclable materials for sustainable art projects.”

More broadly, the RLC aims at introducing freshmen to the tight-knit fine arts community on the Athens Campus. Experiencing the RLC together is a social aspect Law said is important for the students.

“It’s a really great way to meet people, especially for art specifically, the people surrounded by you are your greatest resource," she said.

For more information about the College of Fine Arts visit http://www.finearts.ohio.edu/.