Nutrition and exercise seem to go together—just look at any popular magazine cover filled with tips on how to lose weight, exercise, and cook healthy meals. Anticipating that many college students may be interested in these topics, Immaculata created a Wellness course for its new Special Interest Learning Communities (SILC) program, where students are able to combine two areas of academic interest that are interdisciplinary in nature. The Wellness SILC combines exercise and healthy cooking, offered through Exercise Science 101 and a new class, Cooking Basics.
Starting in the fall 2015 semester as an initiative through the Pathways Title III grant that integrates academic advising, career development and academic support services, SILCs have made an impact among students wishing to generate a deeper connection with the faculty and their classmates. For the University, issues such as student engagement, connection to campus, and retention were key factors in supporting the new SILC program, which is similar to other programs that have been implemented at colleges nationwide.
In addition to the popular Wellness SILC, IU students also enjoy the Consumerism SILC that combines English Composition 101 and Introduction to Marketing. During these classes, which run consecutively, students explore how goods are marketed, why people buy a product, and how mass consumerism creates more pollution and waste.
During a recent SILC English class, Melanie Kisthardt, Ph.D., professor of English/Communication, implored her students to be the best writers they can be, stressing that they should take pride in their writing, whether it’s for a term paper or simply an email or text. Their names are attached to their writing, and they should strive for perfection. Marketing is built on grabbing the public’s attention, and creative, error-free writing is essential.
As the assistant director of Residence Life and Housing for Residential Education, Kaitlin Grady helps to coordinate the SILC courses. This additional responsibility is actually a pleasant surprise for Grady who enjoys the experience on “the other side of campus” by learning more about the academic life of the students she serves.
One of the most popular aspects of the SILC courses are the field trips which provide students with an opportunity to get a glimpse of how to apply what they are learning in class to the real world. Students in the Consumerism course took a behind-the-scenes tour of QVC, and they also visited Wegmans to learn how stores are laid out to market to and attract buyers. Students in the Wellness SILC toured a farmers’ market and the popular local Treehouse World that, according to its website, challenges the brain and keeps students physically active.
Undecided students find SILC courses instrumental in helping them make that final decision on a major. With the unique perspective they gain from SILC offerings, undecided students have an opportunity to explore a topic through two disciplines. Grady explains that students often make a decision based upon their experience in a SILC course. It confirms, “‘Yeah, this is a major I am interested in,’ or it confirms, ‘okay, I tried that and I am NOT interested,’” Grady said.
The great thing about SILCs is that there are endless possibilities to combine courses and it is this combination that benefits the students.