Living-learning Communities Encourage Students to "Think Big"

ThinkBig Program Encourages Unconventional Student Experiences

With ten proposed ThinkBig communities for the fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters, Georgia Tech’s students can sign up for a dorm room as well as try a new approach to living on campus.

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Formally established during the previous academic year, ThinkBig brings together students and faculty in a residence hall setting to discuss intriguing ideas and issues. No additional homework or coursework is required as a part of the community experience. Students can sign up to be a part of any community without prior knowledge or experience in the topic. The majority of the communities will be housed in the North Avenue Apartments, providing greater flexibility for students that want to meet new people while still living close to friends.

Students involved in ThinkBig will pay an additional $150 each semester that they live in a community. While the increased cost may be a concern for some students, participants will never pay for any other expenses associated with the community’s activities, such as coffee nights or field trips. According to ThinkBig Program Coordinator, Craig Rawe, “students are expanding their horizons like study abroad but without all the expenses.” Scholarships are available to students interested in ThinkBig but unable to pay the additional cost.

While the living-learning model is not new to Tech, ThinkBig has increased the number of community options. Both the International House (I-House) and the Women in Science and Technology (WST) communities have a history of strong student participation. Each community has been in existence for nearly a decade (nine and seven years, respectively). The success of these communities paved the way for additional living-learning communities.

After listening to student feedback expressing a desire to builder a deeper sense of community throughout various aspects of Georgia Tech life, the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Department of Housing’s Residence Life program partnered to develop a series of communities that bring like-minded students together to explore intellectual side streets apart from their coursework. “Students were experiencing a negative transition between their freshmen and upperclassman years,” said Rawe. “The administration sought out to create living-learning communities to complement and expand upon what the Freshman Experience program provides freshmen students. ThinkBig can be a catalyst and contribution to the evolution of the Georgia Tech student experience, both academically and non-academically.”

In addition to extending community-building efforts from one year to the next, ThinkBig also extends learning opportunities from the classroom into the dorm room. “ThinkBig benefits student life as a whole in the way it provides a new source of intellectual stimulation and opportunity,” Rawe said. “Students are able to dive into a topic of interest and really explore something they would not have had the chance to study inside the classroom. Participants bond and connect with their peers in this unique housing environment while developing themselves professionally, academically, and socially.”

Community topics were selected from proposals submitted by Georgia Tech faculty and reviewed by the Office of the Provost. “Because more proposals are submitted than room allows, the best fits are selected for the students,” said Rawe. “Staff in Undergraduate Studies and Housing then turn these ideas into a reality.” Each community has a student leader that works with the professor and housing staff to develop topical programming and events. A diverse range of topics, including humor and innovation and sustainability and the science of real food, ensure that many students will find a ThinkBig community that fits their interests.

Students may sign-up for ThinkBig when they register for their housing assignment. For more information on the communities, the professors, and the program, visit or attend one of the remaining ThinkBig information sessions on February 18 and February 25.  Housing registration ends March 1.