UNC Asheville Pilots new LINC Program

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text books used in LINC courses
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By Karrigan Monk ‘18

Freshman year at UNC Asheville is an experience like no other. For many students, this is their first time away from home without knowing anyone.

However, UNC Asheville works to make this transition as easy as possible with a few helping hands and familiar faces.

The First Year Experience Advisory Committee is an interdisciplinary collaborative group comprised of UNC Asheville faculty and staff with the goal of making the transition to college and UNC Asheville easier for first-year students.

The committee’s latest project is the LINC Program.  The program works to connect groups of students through their LA 178 and LANG 120 classes by pairing them so the group of students have the classes with each other.

Putting the pieces together

Jackie McHargue, dean of students, is one of the staff members leading the initiative. She said the committee was talking about the crossover between required first-year classes. Once the committee saw this crossover, they decided to try to link two of the classes together.

McHargue said the cohort model was essential to creating the LINC Program and something UNC Asheville has already tried in different areas, namely the Living Learning Communities (LLC) in which students who share similar interests — whether they are academic or personal — live together on the same residence hall. Students living on these halls are able to participate in events catered specifically to their interests.

“In a graduate school you’re in a cohort. There’s so few graduate programs that don’t use the cohort model,” McHargue said. “Your liberal arts true authentic residential colleges tend to work in cohort models based on housing, and then we’ve got the research from the LLC’s that show this cohort thing is kind of cool and it works, but there’s never been this hybrid of, ‘what if you took first year students and you linked maybe only two classes.’”

Patrick Bahls, professor of mathematics and honors program director, is teaching an LA 178 course that is linked with Jessica Pisano’s LANG 120 course.

Bahls’ and Pisano’s classes are back-to-back, which allows for the two to easily coordinate field trips and assignments.

“They’re in the same boat, but have very different perspectives and I think that’s really helpful,” Bahls said, “having them grow more comfortable with one another and collaborate in this way with folks who don’t necessarily have the same life experiences, same perspective or even major interest that they do.”

McHargue said creating the LINC Program was one of the most organic experiences she has had while at UNC Asheville. Many of the professors teaching linked courses happened to be on the committee or heard about it from someone on the committee.

This word-of-mouth strategy has continued throughout the semester as many other professors have expressed interesting in trying the program.

“This is an institution that embraces innovation and trying things,” McHargue said. “I think it’s just been awesome to see how that’s come from an idea to being embraced by the folks that are participating and having folds that have watched it go, ‘I want to do that too!’ That’s been neat.”

Student responses

Several students have already reacted positively to their involvement with LINC.

Angelica Lynn, a first-year student from Eden, North Carolina, hopes to major in political science. She is one of the students in the LINC pilot group.

“I feel more comfortable around the other students because I get a chance to get to know them because we have two classes together,” Lynn said. “My favorite part of the program is that I am able to meet other freshmen who share the same goals as I do and because we have two classes together we start to create those bonds with each other which creates long-lasting friendships.”

Kara Arroyo, another first-year student in LINC classes, agrees that building friendships is an imperative part of the program.

“This program helped me establish a friend group from the beginning, which allowed me to transition easier being not only a first-year student, but a student who lives off campus at home as well,” Arroyo said. “It has also allowed me to focus on how to be a successful college student by supplying me not only with knowledge, but professors who also care about me and want me to succeed.”

What’s next?

Although the pilot semester is not yet over, the committee is already thinking about where they can take LINC next.

“I’m happy that we have the pilot running and so far it’s been really beneficial for the students, at least from what we hear,” said Regine Criser, assistant professor of German. “I like to hear more about how the instructors also experience the opportunity. I look forward to more assessment and more data and to see where we can take this project.”

McHargue said she already has plans of where LINC could go next. She said she and other committee members hope to grow the program, but remain aware that they need to be cautious so as not to misalign students out of curriculum progression.

“We understand that the hard sciences and engineering have really linear progressions that you have to make through the curriculum in order to stay on target,” McHargue said. “But we have faculty in those programs interested in trying to figure out how to interface with us to help make that an experience that’s also possible for their majors.”

McHargue said she is proud of the project and the students in it.

“The work is hard. It’s not like these are easy classes. These are hard, curriculum-based classes, but that relationship connection they’ve had with each other has carried them and the ability for some of the classes to carry their work between both classes,” McHargue said. “That’s exactly what the liberal arts is. It’s that thread that’s supposed to weave all your learning together and they’re getting that right out of the gate.”