Roy Ivor Hall

New residence program aims to build community tailored to business students

Sharon Aschaiek

A new opportunity to connect with academic peers will be on offer to future students pursuing a business education at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

This fall, UTM will launch the business living learning community (LLC), which will group together some first-year business students at the Roy Ivor Hall residence so they can participate in learning and social activities with each other. Co-created by the department of management and the department of student housing & residence life (SHRL), the business LLC joins eight other communities in the LLC initiative, which enriches the residence experiences and academic success of new undergraduates by building ties between students pursuing the same area of study.

"Supporting students’ success is a key priority for the UTM department of management,” says Cloveth Smith, director of student development & work-integrated learning in the department of management. “First-year can be a challenging transition for students, and we understand that building a strong foundation is pivotal in their academic journey.”

Students who plan to take the course “Introduction to Management Functions” plus “Introduction to Financial Accounting” and/or “Management in a Changing Environment” will qualify to apply to join the business LLC. Successful applicants will get to participate in industry field trips with business faculty members, business skill-building workshops, networking events and an end-of-year dinner. 

“I believe my involvement with the business LLC will help to bridge any gap between faculty and students,” says professor Catherine Seguin, the faculty member affiliated with the business LLC. “It will support open lines of communication so that students feel comfortable asking questions or coming for help.”

The LLC initiative emerged at UTM in 2017, and over the years has grown to encompass communities for students studying subjects such as anthropology, communications and media, computer science, education, the environment, life sciences and medicine. There is also an LLC for students taking the foundations course “Writing for University and Beyond.”

LLC workshops focus on developing competencies such as exam preparation, time management and networking, and building familiarity with campus facilities and services. Meanwhile, field trips might include visits to the Ripley’s Aquarium, Kensington Market and a 3D printing lab. In addition to a dedicated faculty member, each LLC is also supported by a program facilitator—an upper-year student who helps students make friends and achieve academic success.

“We see that students in our LLCs do academically much better than their counterparts, because of the extra support, skills and tools they gain to be successful,” says Bianca Taylor, SHRL’s supervisor of residence education.

“Our surveys of LLC students show their satisfaction with their UTM experience is relatively higher, because they feel a closer sense of community with their peers,” says Amanda Luongo, assistant director of residence life in SHRL.

The LLC experience offered such benefits to Ana Divarzak, who just completed her third year of the bachelor of science degree with a specialization in biotechnology and a minor in chemistry.

Ana Divarzak
Ana Divarzak. (Supplied photo)

 In her first year, the international student from Brazil joined the life sciences LLC, where she says she developed rich friendships that supported her transition university and to life in a new country.

“Going from living with my parents to coming here and knowing no one was challenging,” Divarzak says. “Being part of a community with other students who are also new to post-secondary school, and involved in the same area of study, it really helped me go through all the challenges of being in first year.”

On an academic level, Divarzak says the program facilitator of her LLC helped her learn about key opportunities for her to boost her learning skills. These included facilitated study groups, where participants are guided by an upper-year undergraduate student in practising discipline-related material in a peer-to-peer environment; and independent research projects, through which she could conduct scholarship on a specific subject of interest in her discipline for additional credit.

So impactful was Divarzak’s LLC experience that it influenced her to join the SHRL team. In her second year, she worked as a residence education facilitator, where she oversaw the development and delivery of learning experiences for 50 students in a particular residence. Last year as a community assistant, she provided support to the team of LLC program facilitators and helped plan field trips.

Says Divarzak: “My experience in the LLC made me think about what kind of leader I wanted to be, and inspired me to help other students succeed.”

Learn more about living learning communities: