East Tennessee State University will now ensure that opportunities to learn on campus will continue to grow.

According to a news release from the Office of University Relations, ETSU was granted a $35,000 Tennessee Board of Regents Student Engagement, Retention and Success grant for a project titled “Building Campus Capacity for Learning Communities.”

Although learning communities exist at ETSU, the grant gives more students the opportunity to engage in them. Participants in the past would have to travel to the Washington Center’s home at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington, and spend $5,000 a person. Emily Lardner, the center’s executive director, and staff member Dr. Joye Hardiman came to Johnson City to present the expansion here in Johnson City.

The interdisciplinary project team is led by Adrianna Guram, Associate Director for Residence Life in ETSU’s Office of Housing and Residence Life, and Dr. Stacy Onks, Director of the University Advisement Center. The team includes representatives from Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, University Advisement, the Office of Equity and Diversity, Service-Learning and Human Services.

This is the third grant SERS has awarded ETSU, including expanding the diversity of living-learning communities on campus and “alternative spring breaks” in the 2015-2016 school year and two “high-impact practices” in 2016-17.

“We’ve been slowly building some of the framework that hopefully blossoms now with more opportunities that don’t necessarily involve travel, but offer co-curricular experiences on campus,” Guram said. “If students are taking linked courses around a specific topic, we can intentionally look at programs happening here on campus or in the Tri-Cities area that might connect to that topic. It’s a way of giving students in-depth critical thinking skills and helping them explore big topics through their curriculum while seeing the integration between general education courses and first-year seminars and classes within their disciplines – to see how those pieces fit together rather than seeing them as isolated courses.”

According to the news release, “the goal of this new effort, however, is to make learning communities available to everyone, including commuters, and thereby support success and retention among underrepresented and high-risk student populations, including racial and ethnic minorities and first-generation and low-income students.”

Full implementation is set for fall 2018. Fifteen learning communities are set to be developed for the 2017-18 school year.