At the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, first-year business students who choose to participate in one of the two Business Learning Communities (BLCs) arrive on campus to find a built-in community. They live together in the same residence hall, attend classes as a cohort and typically earn a higher first-semester GPA.
Matea Spyhalski, ’22, of Osseo, Minnesota, started college without knowing anyone. By selecting a Business Learning Community in advance, she found herself surrounded by a network of first-year students as she adjusted to life at Nebraska.
“Our first day on campus, we played games outside to meet everyone and get to know each other," said Spyhalski, a marketing and management graduate. “It was great then to go to my classes and see familiar faces. As an out-of-state student, having the opportunity to choose a Business Learning Community provided me with a great way to start building my community. Many became my greatest friends throughout college.”
With more than 25 Learning Communities throughout the university, the College of Business offers first-year students interested in business a choice of two. The cohort in Business Leaders focuses on developing leadership skills for business while the one in Business Opportunities: Find Your Fit explores different business majors and careers available. Both offer one-on-one peer and staff mentorship, and the students live in Abel Hall.
Sydney Lindstedt, a senior accounting and finance major from Cozad, Nebraska, found her place in the Business Leaders cohort. The mentorship she received helped her adjust to campus and the city of Lincoln.
"I could always go to my peer mentors who could help because they went through experiences similar to mine. I even met my best friend and study buddy, Nicole Van Ess, during the first event the BLCs held. I am grateful the learning community helped us connect,” Lindstedt said.
Van Ess, a senior accounting major from Saint Michael, Minnesota, said she and Lindstedt started out as friends who studied and ate dinner together. They also challenged each other in the classroom and in being involved on campus.
“Sydney and I are both academically driven, and we found we were good study buddies. We joined several academic clubs together — Big Red Investment Club and Delta Sigma Pi (business fraternity) — and we are still so close to this day. The lasting relationships you build in the BLCs are incredible,” said Van Ess.
Social and professional activities provide opportunities for those in BLCs to make friends and strengthen their professional skills through field trips, guest speakers and employer visits. Invited to several activities including a high ropes course that challenges them to get out of their comfort zones and work together, students also visit businesses in Lincoln and Omaha and travel to Chicago, Denver or Kansas City to tour employers.
“One of my favorite memories was going to Chicago with the BLCs. We made connections at four businesses, attended a comedy show, ate deep dish pizza and experienced Navy Pier. It was super fun and a great glimpse into the world of business,” Spyhalski said.
Rachel Wesley, assistant director of Business Advising and Student Engagement in the College of Business, co-leads the college’s BLCs. She emphasized the importance of student involvement and how it impacts their overall college experience.
"Business Learning Communities are beneficial because the students can be as involved in the activities as they want. We do notice the students who are more engaged early on learn about internships and organizations early, so they have more time to take advantage of these opportunities during their college careers," said Wesley.
Wesley also shared how students who live in learning communities typically earn a higher first-semester GPA on average and are more likely to graduate on time.
“Sydney, Nicole and Matea and their friends in the BLC were always asking how they can do more and get more involved. They became very involved in student organizations and internships. They stand out because they took advantage of every opportunity we gave them in the Business Learning Communities," Wesley said.
Business Learning Communities provide a meaningful foundation of skills that continue beyond their first year. After her experience, Spyhalski served as a peer mentor for two years helping others while gaining leadership experience for her own career.
"As a peer mentor, I was able to share my story to help first-year students build community on campus and throughout the College of Business. Gaining that experience also set the foundation for me being able to land an internship at Ameritas and serve as president of the business student fraternity Delta Sigma Pi,” Spyhalski said.
Students interested in joining a BLC need to select one before they graduate from high school. Applications and housing contracts are due by April 1 for the following fall.
“When I first heard about joining a learning community, I wasn’t sure it was the right fit. After gaining meaningful experiences, friendships and people to look up to, I can happily say I made the right choice,” Lindstedt said.
Learn more about the Business Learning Communities at https://business.unl.edu/BLC.
Learn more about the Learning Communities across campus at https://learncom.unl.edu.
Published: August 16, 2022