Greek life and selective living groups are no longer the only options for undergraduate students looking to live in a tight-knit community.

A pilot living-learning community, Visions of Freedom, will begin next year for students interested in political science, philosophy and economics. The LLC, which takes its name from a similarly-themed Focus program, is open to all students and will include a house course taught by upperclassmen, a lecture series and house trips.

“The community itself is meant to be an alternative to the housing options that are currently available, like SLGs and Greek life, which can be really difficult to get into,” said junior Tara Bansal, Duke Student Government Vice President of Academic Affairs. “This aims to bring people together based on intellectual interests, making it a more academic community than the other communities aim to be.”

Michael Gillespie, professor of political science and philosophy, helped establish the LLC as a continuation of his involvement with the first-year Visions of Freedom Focus program.

A 2006 grant from the National Humanities Council provided funds for the Focus program as well as for a similar upperclassmen living community, Gillespie said. By the time he raised sufficient funds for that living community, however, Duke had already established SLGs, leaving no room for LLCs.

When Bansal ran for DSG, she proposed the LLC, noting that she wished something similar had existed for herself.

While the LLC’s student executive board will be responsible for organizing house activities, such as the lecture series and trips, faculty mentors will be essential to the LLC, working with the executive board to run the lecture series, develop the house course syllabus and bring guest speakers to campus, Gillespie said.

He added that several faculty members have expressed interest in working with the house.

“A big part of this program is to facilitate student-faculty interaction in a much more casual setting,” Bansal explained. “The faculty mentor will help engage faculty with some of the events, bringing faculty to the events so that students can talk to them in a really casual setting, over dinner in their own house, and really get to know them better.”

Visions of Freedom students will live in Edens 1A. Bansal said that to avoid displacing independent students in the future, LLCs will be organized in houses that do not already have a strong sense of community. The rooms will be reallocated to the LLC as students graduate or move into other houses.

Because of space limitations, only 18 students will be accepted into the LLC this year. While there will be an application process to select those students, Gillespie said in following years students can opt into the LLC by lottery if they list the house as their first choice on the housing application.

The non-exclusive, non-selective nature of LLCs is meant to be an alternative to the highly selective rush process of Greek life and SLGs, Bansal said.

“Rush is a little bit like sending kids back to middle school,” Gillespie said. “If there’s one place I don’t ever want to go, it’s back to middle school. So this shouldn’t be a situation where you have to prove that you’re the one who ought to be in this group.”

Junior James Ferencsik said he had been unsatisfied by the lack of community in upperclassmen housing and hopes to be selected in the LLC. If the pilot program for Visions of Freedom succeeds, Bansal said there may be an expansion of other academic themes in various houses on campus.

“For students who are not particularly interested in politics, I expect the Visions of Freedom house to be the first of several living-learning communities that allow upperclassmen to live with other Duke students that share their intellectual interests,” Ferencsik said.