Gail Hairston

Leadership and Service Go Hand in Hand

Published: Nov 13, 2013


Video by UK Public Relations and Marketing.


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 13, 2013) -- In the broadest sense, leadership simply means influencing others.  Add community service to the mix and you have a recipe for good deeds, limited only by the energy and imagination a group of college freshmen can muster.


First established in 2010, the University of Kentucky’s Living Learning Community devoted to Leadership and Service is an “invaluable opportunity to our students who are interested in learning what it takes to be an effective leader and what it means to serve your community,” said Nina Marijanovic, academic coordinator for Academic Initiatives, Office of Residence Life.


Both the program and its participants call Holmes Hall home, hence the name residential learning. The north campus hall is one of the university’s oldest residence halls, but the freshmen see it and the Leadership and Service Living Learning Program as a transition between high school and university. A maximum of 25 incoming freshmen are chosen each year, but only 16 were admitted this fall, making it one of the smallest LLPs on campus.


“This first-year community provides experiences to help students continue to be effective citizens of their new community and helps lay the foundation for civic involvement,” said Marijanovic.


The community sponsors two peer mentors, one mentor tasked with community programming and one mentor designated as a teaching assistant to the community connected course, which is offered through the College of Agriculture. Their curriculum ranges from a recent trust- and team-building high-ropes course at Red River Gorge to regularly attending CLD 300: Leadership Exploration, which deals with the more theoretical side of leadership building skills and includes a capstone project at the end of the first semester.


Sarah Hermsmeier of the Center for Community Outreach (CCO) serves as program director, and Grace Gorrell of the College of Agriculture is the academic partner. Jared Roberts has been peer mentor to the group for two years, and Erolle Garner is the first-year mentor from Community and Leadership Development. The group is poised to grow dramatically next fall with plans to move the Leadership and Service Living Learning Program to the more spacious Woodland Glen I, now under construction on the south end of campus.


Gorrell is personally thrilled her class includes only 16 students at the present. “It allows me as the instructor and the peer mentors to really get to know the students much better than one of the larger communities might,” she said. “Another difference from a lot of the other LLPs, our students come from a wide variety of majors, departments, backgrounds and interests.” Beyond leadership and service, interests vary so widely; in fact, the Leadership Exploration class is the only one all 16 students share.


“For this particular community,” said Marijanovic, “the goal is to create engaged civic-oriented students, who will return to their hometowns or move to new communities, and become productive and engaged citizens. Often times, volunteerism and community service is perhaps perceived as an activity for ‘other’ people, or something the students did to make their college application look better. This community is about changing those perceptions and teaching students to use their own skills in order to be leaders in their fields or in their community.


“Residential learning is about combining the classroom and the residence hall, and making sure those experiences complement one another,” she said. “Just because the class has ended for the day, does not mean that learning ends for that day. The goal with residential learning is to continue those classroom conversations and the topics, so that our students can see how they connect and how everyday activities are just an extension of what we’re covering in class.”


For example, recently the students split into three groups, one group helped sort donated clothes at a thrift shop, another group placed box wreathes throughout a neighborhood, and the last group went to a horse farm to paint fences.


Grace-Marie Thompson, a freshman from Erlanger, Ky., and eager member of the Leadership and Service community, had some advice for next year’s freshmen, “I would say try to join any of the living learning communities because they are a really great asset to helping you connect with campus resources and just make a lot of new friends.”


Celebrating its 25th year on campus in fall 2014, the Living Learning Program at the University of Kentucky provides students with an environment to learn where they live and to live where they learn. The Division of Student Affairs Office of Residence Life, creators of the program, collaborated with academic and other student success partners to complement the classroom experience. Through Living Learning Communities and Residential Colleges, UK offers students an opportunity to live and learn together in an integrated academic residential environment.


This dynamic residential experience offers specialized programming, interactions with UK faculty and staff, and a supportive community that focuses on student success. The program has grown exponentially in recent years with 965 students participating in 13 programs this fall. Six more programs will be added in fall 2014, nine times more than in 2008. For more information, visit



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