The new living learning community may be expanding, providing an alternative to selective living groups, Greek life and independent housing.

Living learning communities offer students an opportunity to live in a close-knit environment with a focus on intellectual engagement without the pressures of going through a stressful rush process. Visions of Freedom, a pilot LLC, made its debut this semester and currently hosts 18 students interested in philosophy, economics and political science. Although many are past members of the FOCUS cluster with the same name, being a part of the FOCUS program was not a requirement for membership. Anyone interested in political science was encouraged to apply. Many of their events, like the first presidential debate watch party, are also open to non-members.

“I think that what I like most about it is the fact that the people that I lived with—similar to FOCUS—gave me almost the same sort of academic engagement that I get normally in the classroom,” said sophomore Cullen Tyndall, treasurer of the Visions of Freedom student executive board.

Senior James Ferencsik, president of the Visions of Freedom student executive board, noted that if this pilot proves a success, other FOCUS clusters might start their own living learning communities. Duke Student Government President Tara Bansal, a senior, added that students and faculty from other focus groups have already expressed interest in creating their own such communities.

Bansal noted that she is currently leading an assessment of the LLC to evaluate whether community is forming, what types of support the LLC needs to thrive and areas for improvement.

The Visions of Freedom LLC accepted only 18 students this year after an application process. Bansal explained that new members will be accepted as seniors graduate and spaces open up in specific houses.

“Each year we will add about twenty students until an entire dorm is filled with LLC students,” she wrote in an email.

One of the main differences between LLCs and other non-independent housing options is that LLCs emphasize non-selectivity. Members of the student executive board are considering approving future applications on a lottery basis.

“The recruitment process can be upsetting for students because it can feel like such a personal rejection,” Bansal, who first proposed the project, wrote. “I’m also aware that some students have an advantage in typical ‘recruitment’ processes: students that are well-connected, extroverted or those that can afford recruitment and dues. I wanted to build a community that any student can join without the risk or anxiety of rejection.”

LLCs will also have a more academic focus than traditional non-independent housing options. All members will be required to enroll in a house course. Visions of Freedom currently plans to include some academic component in all the events they host. However, the LLC may also consider hosting some purely social events if enough members express an interest in doing so, noted Ferencsik.

The academic nature of LLCs gives them a wider range of funding opportunities than are available to SLGs and Greek life. Members of Visions of Freedom do not pay dues, but the program received funding for a trip to Washington, D.C. earlier this semester from a variety of groups, including the Office of Undergraduate Education and the Political Science department, Bansal wrote in an email. Ferencsik also noted that the LLC’s academic focus makes it easier for it to tap into the financial resources of different departments at Duke.

In addition to the perks that come with having a generous range of funding options, members say that the main draw of an LLC is the opportunity to live in a community conducive to intellectual engagement.

“I learn just as much when the person next door to me comes into my room and starts talking about Russian oligopolies for four hours as when I go into class during the day,” said sophomore Jackson Dellinger, a student currently participating in this program.

Claire Ballentine contributed reporting.