It takes more than a year for some students to get their bearings.
AU Compass, a new pilot program launching in fall 2023, will help them find their way. A living-learning community for 60 sophomores, AU Compass will provide a space for focused exploration, including help selecting majors, minors, and study abroad programs.
“We’re providing them a space, so they know that it’s okay to not know and it’s okay to take time,” said Kyle Johnson, assistant director of University College and sophomore living-learning communities. “We’re crafting this experience to both professionally and personally develop students and showcase the different options they have at AU, while still being able to explore their interest areas,”
Students will be grouped based on academic interest but will come together for guest speakers, field trips, and discussions about their habits of mind courses, core classes that focus on specific ways of thinking or knowing. Part of the AU Core Curriculum, the courses—five of which are required for graduation—help students develop questions, employ methodologies, and create new knowledge or solutions. AU Compass students will live together on the same floor of a residence hall for upperclassmen.
“We want to create immersive experiences for our students as they navigate their academic careers and build on their first-year foundation,” Provost Peter Starr said. “AU Compass will offer supportive communities for students to continue thrive academically and socially.”
The initiative was born out of the sophomore living-learning program that the university established following the start of the pandemic in 2021. The goal, Johnson said, was to foster a community for students who were remote as freshmen (all of whom had already declared their major), but staff discovered through recruitment efforts they weren’t meeting the needs of participants. About 12 students are currently in a sophomore living-learning community centered around intercultural communication.
This past summer, Johnson and colleagues from Housing and Residence Life, the Office of Campus Life, and the College of Arts and Sciences attended the Institute on Improving Undergraduate Education at scenic Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Sequestered in the forest on the southern end of Puget Sound, the team brainstormed ideas for AU Compass and sketched out a path for the program, which received final approval in October.
“We were in the woods and had poor cell service, and we had to walk quite a bit just to call for an Uber,” Johnson said. “It really did spark good conversation. We represented different areas of the university, so the institute brought [together] some diverse viewpoints to really think through this community.”
In advance of the program’s launch next fall, Johnson and his team are visiting Complex Problems seminars to pitch AU Compass. They also see University College as a recruitment pipeline since those students are currently a part of a first-year living-learning community.
“As we reimagine the student experience, it’s important to consider the experiences of students all throughout and beyond the first year,” said Fanta Aw, vice president of undergrad enrollment, campus life, and inclusive excellence. “Sophomore students often find themselves in an interesting place of exploration and decision making. The idea of the AU Compass is to collaborate with students in building communities of practice focused on academics, social connections, and networks of support.”
Are you a rising sophomore interested in AU Compass? Click here to apply.