Living and learning communities to continue programming virtually this fall, officials say

Media Credit: File Photo by Donna Armstrong | Senior Staff Photographer

Elizabeth Chacko, the associate provost for special programs and the Mount Vernon academic experience, held a virtual orientation for Mount Vernon Campus Scholars this summer.

Freshmen living and learning communities will continue their programming virtually this fall through virtual bonding events, officials said.

All nine LLC programs, like Civic House, the Women’s Leadership Program and Politics and Values, will continue to operate events virtually in light of officials’ transition to online classes this fall. Officials said faculty plan to offer students virtual tours of the District, film screenings and guest speakers.

Elizabeth Chacko, the associate provost for special programs and the Mount Vernon academic experience, said she hopes to replicate some of the experiences they would have shared in person.

Chacko said she hosted a virtual orientation for the Mount Vernon Campus Scholars program, where officials offered “real-time interactive elements” for students, like a quiz about the District, breakout sessions with incoming students and responses to questions about the transition from high school to college. She said the incoming students appreciated the opportunity to interact with their peers.

“Teaching and learning completely online for an entire semester is a new experience for all of us,” Chacko said in an email. “As young people who are mostly in their late teens, our students are exceptionally adept at interacting in cyberspace, and I hope to build a vibrant and safe online community for the MVC Scholars with their help and by actively listening to them.”

Several alumni of the MVC Scholars Program who were on the Student Advisory Council to the Associate Provost last year have offered to interact with the freshmen on a “regular basis” this fall to help build both community and offer advice, she said.

Chacko added that she plans to send out a weekly newsletter with events and “interesting” issues to students in the LLCs.

Mary Buckley, the director of the Women’s Leadership Program and a professor of international arts, said faculty in the program hope to create a “vibrant” and “interactive” learning environment for students through virtual lectures, small group assignments and guest speakers. Former WLP students will also be invited to mentor current students, she said.

“We are taking advantage of the multiple online materials that have been developed in the past few years – online library resources, open-source textbooks and new media tools,” she said in an email.

WLP will host several online symposium events, bringing in speakers like Iranian journalist Yeganeh Rezaian and former White House speechwriters Vinca LaFleur and Sarada Peri, Buckely said. She added that students will participate in the Race in America event hosted by the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement in September.

Buckley said she met with incoming WLP students over the summer and was excited by their “eagerness” to begin a new “academic adventure.” Enrollment in the program has been consistent in the last four years, and some students who were accepted to WLP from their application in May recently committed to the program, she said.

“We are happy to see the enthusiasm for our program has been constant,” Buckley said.

Incoming students said they are disappointed that they will not have the full LLC experience but are optimistic they will still benefit from the program.

Isabella Scipioni, an incoming freshman in the WLP, said she is hopeful she will still benefit from being in the program’s classes and having the opportunity to meet other students.

“Even if our symposium events this year are not as exciting as they usually are, I will still benefit by taking smaller classes, forming connections with like-minded women and by getting guidance from my program,” she said.

Scipioni added that the program has run smoothly online so far. She and her peers have had several calls with professors over Zoom and had a virtual orientation with information about activities and planning on Blackboard, she said.

“My fellow students have been great too, and some have even organized games for us to play over Zoom and Netflix parties for us to get to know each other better,” Scipioni said.

Dasia Bandy, an incoming freshman in Civic House, said she ultimately decided to stay in the program despite the transition online because she wanted a “small-knitted family” to begin her academic experience.

Bandy said she has participated in Civic House Orientation, Mount Vernon Scholars Orientation and the Institute for Citizen Leaders Retreat, which included various icebreaker activities where she had the opportunity to meet her peers.

“Through these events I have had the opportunity to build a strong relationship with my cohort and prepare for the fall semester,” she said.

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