The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2 - 33

Shannon R. Dean * Stephanie L. Dailey

LLC in order to determine how they were both
positively and negatively impacted.

Even though most people felt

Data Collection

overwhelmingly positive about the

METHODS

LLC experience and its academic

Since our research question dealt with how students felt about their experiences in the LLC,
we used interpretive, qualitative methods to
find themes among students' experiences. Our
project sought to understand the experiences
of STEM majors who lived in an LLC during
their first year of college. Thus, we adopted an
inductive or emic approach, which allows behaviors to be described by participants, rather
than using researchers' beliefs to understand
meaning (Tracy, 2012). This STEM LLC was
located at a small private school in the southwestern United States. Initially established
in 2010 by a grant from the National Science
Foundation, the LLC was developed specifically
for students majoring in the natural sciences.

benefits, there were some who

One-on-one interviews with LLC students
were conducted in a private faculty office on
campus. In the open-ended interviews, students discussed why they applied to the LLC,
the expectations they had, and how the LLC
impacted their college experience. Students
reflected on specific perks and the bonds
they formed with other LLC participants and
offered suggestions about how to strengthen
or change the LLC program. Throughout the
interviews, follow-up questions were asked
to probe for more information and examples
(Charmaz, 2006). The interviews were audiorecorded and transcribed.

Site and Participants
All participants underwent an application
process before joining the LLC as first-year
undergraduates. All of them lived on the
same floor of an on-campus residence hall
during their first year, along with an upperdivision student majoring in natural sciences
who served as the resident assistant. In addition to living together, students participated
in a variety of experiences as a cohort. For instance, they began their LLC experience with
a one-week Freshman Accelerated Research
Methods workshop, where they learned about
research tools and methodologies in several
scientific disciplines prior to beginning their
undergraduate coursework. In their first year,
LLC students completed two special science
seminars and co-enrolled in the same sections

32

Students' Experiences in a STEM LLC

struggled with the competitive
nature of the community.

of biology, chemistry, calculus, and computer
science. LLC cohorts also received special
benefits their first year of college, including a
book stipend, free tutoring, and the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research after
their first year in the program, an experience
usually reserved for juniors and seniors. Although students were more actively involved in
the LLC during their first year, the LLC director
also offered recreational activities, community
dinners, and research opportunities for each
cohort during the remainder of their college
experience. Many junior and senior LLC students later served as resident assistants and
mentors to other LLC cohorts.
A total of 23 LLC students (86.7% response
rate) participated in the current study. The LLC
supervising faculty member initially contacted
students to notify them about the study, and
then we emailed them to solicit their participation. All participants were recent graduates
of the university. Data were collected over two
years so that two different cohorts of approximately 15 students each had the opportunity to
participate in the study. Of the 23 participants,
16 identified as women and 7 participants
identified as men. We assigned each participant a pseudonym to protect their anonymity.

THE JOURNAL OF COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY STUDENT HOUSING

Data Analysis
We analyzed interview transcripts through
thematic analysis with an iterative approach
(Tracy, 2012). We identified and compared
various chunks of data comprising words,
phrases, and sentences and then assigned
emergent codes (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña,
2013, p. 71). These open codes were then integrated to form broader themes (Glaser &
Strauss, 1967). Although each author coded
transcripts individually, we shared a codebook
and periodically visited each other during the
coding process to compare initial findings and
determine if similar themes were forming. At
the end of the coding process, we discussed
similar categories, which formed the basis of
the results presented here.

FINDINGS
After analyzing the data from the 23 interviews, we discovered three primary benefits
and challenges related to the participants' LLC:
academic, social, and personal. Although most

of the information about their LLC experience
was positive, this research also highlights potential shortcomings of LLC involvement.
These findings help us better understand the
lived experiences of STEM students who participated and engaged in an LLC.

Academic Benefits and Challenges
One of the benefits and challenges that the participants noted was the LLC's influence on their
academics. For some students, peer accountability benefited their schoolwork, whereas
others noted an increase in their GPA because
of the tutoring or study sessions held within the
LLC. Many participants commented on the importance of their ability to conduct research with
faculty, noting that this opportunity contributed
to their persistence in STEM fields.

In many ways, students viewed
the social element of the LLC as a
highlight of their college experience.
For many, the LLC was the primary
mechanism through which they
built friendships.

Academic benefits. Academics plays a large
role in how students feel about their college
experience and directly impacts a student's
ability to remain at an institution.  A positive
academic experience can help a student persevere, which is even more important in the
STEM fields (Potacco, 2015). More than half
of the participants discussed feeling as though
the other LLC students and faculty held them
V O L U M E 4 6 , NO. 2 * 2 0 2 0

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The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2

Contents
The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2 - Intro
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