New Learning Community Promotes Diversity, Leadership At University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Melvin Jones Scholars Learning Community supporters plan for students in this new University of Nebraska-Lincoln learning community to become leaders both in academic and off-campus settings.
The community is named for former UNL Vice Chancellor Melvin Jones, who died in 1999. M. Colleen Jones, Melvin Jones’ widow, is chairwoman of the advisory committee overseeing the community. Jones is assistant professor in management in the College of Business Administration.
Melvin Jones was very much committed to mentoring, Colleen Jones said, and was also very much committed to the university being responsive to all of its students. A goal of his, Jones said, was trying to find ways that students could feel comfortable within the institution even when they are in the minority. The community feeds into that by providing mentoring and helping students navigate the university and the professional environment.
The community, in development over two years, came out of work by the African American faculty and staff caucus, an informal group on campus.
The caucus was concerned about the low numbers of students of color on campus, and how it was difficult to retain them. Research shows that starting students off in a way that is deliberate and purposeful helps retain them. The learning community concept helps bring this about, said Jones.
As with other learning communities, the students live in the same area, in this case a floor in the Abel Hall dormitory. The students take at least one course together — although the community is not oriented toward any single academic discipline — and also join in the same activities and workshops.
Students in the community are from African American, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian cultures. There are 28 students in the first class, with 18 men and 10 women. Most are from Nebraska, but Texas, Colorado, and Georgia are also represented.
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