TWU launches innovative campus project to improve learning value for students

The university’s goal to improve learning outcomes is re-shaping traditional paradigms of university education

Langley, British Columbia—Textbooks, classrooms and professors are traditional elements people associate with university education. But this fall, Trinity Western University is adding an executive lounge with leather sofas, a double-sided fireplace, and a chance for students to learn from each other and professors outside of the classroom to the list. Supplementing traditional learning with a new style of educational delivery, Trinity Western’s newest program, called the “collegium project,” will provide students who live off campus and commute to the University from their Lower Mainland homes a place to interact, study, gain advice and learn together.

The word “collegium” derives from a Latin root meaning “gathering place.” Patterned after an innovative, experimental program south of the border at Seattle University, Trinity Western’s program is equipped with everything from computers and telephones to a kitchen island and lockers. What sets it apart from a traditional library or student lounge is programming that facilitates learning interaction and mentorship for first-year commuting students.

“It’s a place that considers every need of a commuting student,” says Sheldon Loeppky, director of community life at TWU. “That’s what makes it distinct.”

Open to 250 first-year, transfer and fourth-year commuting student members, the collegium is a place where seasoned students can mentor those just beginning their university career. “We want to create an environment that enables professors and fourth-year students to invest in the lives of first-year students,” says Loeppky. “It will be a place that will help students socially, physically and academically and will encourage new students to take advantage of opportunities sooner. It will be a springboard to help students excel at a higher level.”

Student leaders, called collegium assistants, will develop, serve, program and maintain the project, along with membership representatives to help incoming students adjust to and excel at university life.

Students will also be able to build relationships with professors outside of the classroom, getting advice on their various areas of study. “It’s a chance for faculty to be mentors and connecting points for commuting students,” says Loeppky. “The students will have the opportunity to get to know faculty members and faculty members will be able to promote and raise the relevance of a student’s academic program to his or her life.”

While Trinity Western will launch its collegium project this September, results south of the border show collegia to be effective in connecting commuter students with the university community. In a survey conducted by Seattle University before it opened its first collegium in 1996, 75 per cent of Seattle University’s commuter students stated that they did not have a place to call their own on campus. After the collegia were instituted, only 24 per cent felt the same way.

Loeppky has already received calls from students expressing interest in joining TWU’s collegium project—before the invitations have even gone out. It is expected that the success of the project will generate plans to develop more and eventually accommodate the entire commuting student population, which makes up approximately 65 percent of Trinity Western’s student body.

“The collegium project will help accommodate an increasing commuter population as the demand for a Trinity Western education grows,” says Loeppky. “Our goal is to continue to find innovative ways to maximize learning for all of our students.”

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts university enrolling 2,763 students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 34 major areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2012-08-21
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