Community Attempts to Prevail at UAF: A Look at LLCs and how they have looked in a Pandemic Stricken World

Community Attempts to Prevail at UAF: A Look at LLCs and how they have looked in a Pandemic Stricken World

 

Disclaimer: the writer works personally for the department that the article discusses and therefore also the people interviewed within the article

 

Last spring, the world was thrown into disarray due to Covid-19. As people struggled to accept the new normal, the University of Alaska, along with other universities around the world, were forced to close their campuses. This came as a huge hit to the UAF community as a whole. With college students already facing a mental health crisis and prone to experiencing feelings of loneliness, many returned to campus in the fall with the hopes of finding community. For many, that answer lay within the Living Learning Communities (LLCs) offered by Residence Life.

The pandemic left many with a sense of isolation, as the world was forced to quarantine. According to a study done by the American College Health Association in 2017, 63 percent of college students were already reporting feelings of loneliness. Quarantines only magnified the problem. Studies show feeling lonely has various negative health effects, including but not limited to increased risk of dementia and a higher rate of depression and suicide. Those who were already prone to experience these feelings were only put at more risk.

 A report published by the CDC several months into the pandemic showed that 1 in 4 people aged 18-24 had “seriously considered suicide” within the 30 days of the survey being conducted. With an already prevalent mental health crisis amongst college students growing worse with the pandemic, many were desperate to return to campus. 

UAF’s Residence Life states on their website that living on campus is “a great way to make new friends and participate in the university community.” This has a different meaning this year, as for many students, living in the dorms is one of the only ways to make friends with fellow students. Their statement “a shared community and a sense of connection you can only experience by living on campus” for many rings truer now than ever. However, despite the efforts of Residence Life, for some, this sense of community has been missing this year. Jaymin Mazotti, a resident of Moore Hall, said that his experience of living within the dorms specifically was “not as strong as it could be.”

Mazotti is a member of the Living Learning Communities, which were instituted by Residence Life specifically to bring together communities of students. These communities would be run by an RA and housed on a specific floor, where people of a similar background could come together and form a foundation for one another. The university hosts five LLCs: the Honors LLC, the Engineering LLC, the Outdoor Adventures LLC, the Impact LLC, and the Stonewall LLC. Members are drawn to these programs for different reasons. Jaymin says he wanted to join the Stonewall LLC—which focuses on LGBTQ+ issues and aims to provide a space for people of the community—because he wanted to have “a safe space to be in. Especially since I’m trans, I wanted to make sure that I was in a good floor that would be a good, safe community” He went on to say that he arrived “having the expectation of dorm life, and then coming to be isolated in a small room was a lot at first. But once everything started to get figured out, it was really cool.”

This steadily improving experience that residents have felt was achieved through hard work and efforts from the staff of Residence Life. Chana Stern is the Resident Assistant in charge of the Impact LLC, which is designed for students aiming to make an impact in their community and give a voice to those who might be disadvantaged. They said that their goal is “to make my residents, and just people in general, feel as if they’re being represented, and their voices are being heard.” They described their experience running their floor, with COVID in mind, as “a block in the road” to their overall goals. Stern says, “I think that because of COVID people are more isolated, and are less likely to want to talk about certain issues.” But they add, ”By living in this LLC, and having already the LLC be there, to say that we want to hear their voices really helps.” 

While in this uncertain and ever-changing world, Residence Life has been trying to adapt to its students’ needs and help as much as they can. The introduction of community has helped alleviate some of the students’ issues, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to continue to improve the lives and mental health of college students. 

Leave a Reply