COPH gets its own Living Learning Community [VIDEO]

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New for fall 2021: Bulls in Health, a Living Learning Community (LLC) dedicated solely to USF College of Public Health (COPH) students.

Previously, public health/health sciences majors shared an LLC with nursing students. But with interest in public health at an all-time high (thanks, at least in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic) it became clear that COPH students could sustain their own LLC.

LLCs are residential communities designed to provide students with a cohort experience with their peers who share similar majors, career ambitions and co-curricular interests. Some of the perks include in-hall academic advising and tutoring services as well as service-learning opportunities—with no additional housing costs.

The COPH Bulls in Health Living Learning Community is open to first-year students, transfer students and current students who either currently major or plan to major in health sciences or public health.

There is no GPA requirement, but LLC students overall, perhaps because of the built-in support the communities provide, have high GPAs—3.57 on average. Students in the Bulls in Health LLC, which has 68 beds and takes up two “pods” of one floor of Poplar Hall, co-enroll in critical health sciences prerequisites or public health course work and participate in special events and activities that introduce them to the COPH and USF Health. 

Poplar Hall, home of the Bulls in Health LLC. (Photo by Zachary Murray)

Lanie Samperi, a first-year health sciences student living in the Bulls in Health LLC, values the camaraderie she feels with those on her residence hall wing (or what’s called a “pod”), especially given the isolation students experienced with remote learning during the pandemic. 

“I chose to live in an LLC because, as a freshman, I didn’t want to feel alone. The LLC gave me a sense of community. For example, we have a group chat within our public health pod and we set up study times or we can ask each other for extra help,” she said. “If you struggle with meeting people or with keeping up with your assignments, an LLC is a great option for you.”

Ava DiNicola and Mckenna Moore started out as strangers when they were assigned to room together in the Bulls in Health LLC. Now the two freshman health sciences majors are best friends who signed up to live in the LLC next year. 

Ava DiNicola (left) and Mckenna Moore (Photo by Zachary Murray)

“When you sign up for a random roommate, you never know who you’re going to get,” said DiNicola. “But I think the friends I made here are the best part about [the LLC].” “We have so many great neighbors and people here,” Moore added. “And we’re friends with every single one of them.” 

Both students said seeing their Bulls in Health friends study hard and excel has been personally motivating for them. “When you see other students doing well, you want to be successful, too,” DiNicola commented. 

Student success—both academic and personal—is one of the driving forces of an LLC. 

A look inside a Bulls in Health LLC room (Photo by Zachary Murray)

Dr. Matawal Makut, a COPH instructor, is Faculty-in-Residence (FIR) for Juniper-Poplar Hall and supports the Bulls in Health LLC. Makut hosts or organizes activities centered around public health topics and issues.

“We’ve had talks that focused on COVID-19, talks about different public health careers, and once we can do things in person, we’ll have field trips to places like hospitals and health departments,” he said. “What I really enjoy is the student interaction. I can engage with students outside the classroom and build a connection with them that they won’t necessarily get in a lecture hall.”

The Bulls in Health LLC also has its own dedicated academic advisors, Evan Isaacson and Meleine Desir. In addition to bringing in COPH and USF Health faculty speakers and organizing events, Isaacson and Desir advise students on what courses they need to take to meet their major requirements and work with them on scheduling.

A Bulls in Health LLC student studies in one of the community’s “pod spaces.” (Photo by Zachary Murray)

“If a student has any questions about tutoring, scheduling, or anything at all, I’m here for them,” Isaacson stated. “My office is located right in the residence hall. I’m here to make sure students stay on track academically, personally and professionally.”

There’s fun on tap for next semester, too, says Isaacson, who says there will be socials and programming with other LLCs to help build a wider sense of community.

“The feedback we’ve gotten from a lot of students this year is that this place is a community, a family,” Isaacson said. “Many of the students are bonded and are living here again next semester. They’re working together, studying together and really enjoying their college experience.”

“The Bulls in Health LLC is a great place to build friendships and make connections,” first-year public health major Lauren Topley said. “I’d definitely recommend it.”

You can learn more about the Bulls in Health LLC and apply for residence here. The deadline to apply is June 15.

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health