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Academic Experience

Learning happens both inside and outside the classroom. Sophomore Scholars and living-learning communities combine the traditional coursework with opportunities for experiential learning that enhance the classroom experience.

For first-year living-learning communities, students will typically take a first-year seminar course each semester that corresponds to the theme of the community. Throughout the year, students will engage in experiential learning and community-based learning in Richmond and the surrounding region. Students also live in a building with other living-learning communities so that they are a part of an intellectual community that encourges thoughtful discussion and exchanges of ideas and knowledge.

With the Sophomore Scholars communities, students take a one-unit course in the fall semester, and a linked half-unit course in the spring semester. Throughout the fall semester, students are engaged in a class, experiential learning and community-based learning, resulting in an independent research project due at the end of the semester. In the spring semester, students are taking their research and experiences and creating group capstone projects and subsequent presentations to the University. These projects are broad-based, have taken a variety of forms, and vary depending on the community; examples include:

  • Community-based projects
  • In-depth group research
  • Documentary films
  • Digital stories
  • Performance or exhibition-based projects

Sophomore Scholars communities allow students to engage deeply on a topic, led by a dedicated faculty mentor, who are leaders within their field and the community. 

"Even though this class is far outside my major, I am learning so much as a person. The experience has made me a better person." — past SSIR student reflection

Experiential Learning

Equally important to the traditional classroom coursework is the opportunity for students to engage in the topic within the community and outside the classroom. Students have the opportunity to engage with scholars at other colleges and universities, professionals within the business and non-profit sectors, leaders within the fields they are studying, as part of lectures and in-person through class trips as a community. Many communities engage in community-based learning or service-learning, where students are volunteering with a community partner or organization throughout the academic year.

The community trips that students embark upon are meant to add context and enhance the classroom learning. Students are able to connect what they have been reading, researching and studying in the course, associated with the community, through travel and meeting with community partners, experts, and organizations. Students regularly report that the trips they went on, as a community, were one of their most meaningful experiences in the living-learning community.

"The trips gave us the opportunity to see firsthand the things we debated in the comfort of Lakeview." — past SSIR student reflection

While traveling with a Sophomore Scholars or living-learning community, all costs (including meals, hotel, airfare) are paid for entirely by the University of Richmond.