How the Civic Leaders Living Learning Center Has Changed Me

Last year at this time, after being admitted to IU, I started looking at different programs offered by the university. At that point, I did not have much idea what I wanted to do. I applied for International Studies as a major only because I was into global issues and I wanted to learn more about it. One day, as I was working on my housing application, some Living-Learning Center programs had come across. Without much knowledge about college residential life, I went to each program’s websites to see what they offer. Civic Leaders Center, sponsored by SPEA, stood out to me the most because of their strong focus on civic engagement, and it is open to students of all majors.

Without the opportunities to visit the campus or the Civic Leaders Center prior to my official first day in Bloomington, I had a series of imaginative thoughts on what it would actually be like. Over the summer, I watched the only few YouTube videos about previous students’ experience on repeat to get a grip of how my life will be like in a few months.

As a Civic Leader, we are required to register in a one-credit-hour Civic Leader Seminar, Law and Public Affairs, Urban Problems and Solutions or National and International Policy. The students would solely be all Civic Leaders.

What is special about the program and what has changed about me throughout the program?

I really value the community feel that the CLC is providing. All members have to live together on the second and third floor of the Gucker tower at Briscoe. Ever since welcome week, we have been a close friend group. Even though it is a closed Living-Learning Center, all members are of different majors and have different interests. It is never boring to start a conversation. Together, we attend seminars and two other required classes, which completely fulfill the purpose of both “living” and “learning.”

Civic Leaders Living Learning Center students

It helped me narrow down a major. Partially, my decision emerged from taking certain classes. Another great impact was from the opportunities and involvement because of the Civic Leaders Center. As a Civic Leader, I got the exposure to all kinds of opportunities, such as 2020 Sustainability Scholars program, and all kinds of student organizations. As I was getting more and more involved with initiatives on campus, I started to realize my passion of the areas I want to study. The CLC also creates great networking opportunities, as everyone is so engaged. Our trip to D.C. trip gave us a grip of how working and living in D.C. as an intern would be. The few leadership retreats showed us qualities we should have as effective leaders. And all the in-class discussions and seminars emphasized on the essence of critical thinking. As freshmen, we really took these amazing opportunities for granted.

I am very #BriscoeBlessed. Yes, as Civic Leaders, we get to experience the Briscoe-class living style. Within 5-minute-walk from the Assembly Hall and the Memorial Stadium, a kitchen on the floor, private bathrooms, all-year air-conditioned, and all the hotel standards that we have were definitely top factors I took into account when I was applying for housing. This is really a bonus to all the great academic, leadership and involvement experiences I have had so far. Despite the fact that Briscoe is a tad bit far away from the central campus, A bus does a pretty great job taking us up and down Fee Lane in the winter. On another hand, if you are a sports fan, Kelley or SPEA student, Briscoe is actually better than a central campus location.

IUs campus at sunset

We have a strong leadership, thus, we plan great events and trips. One of the highlights of this year so far is definitely the Washington, D.C. trip. It was a fun fall break weekend of leadership training, sight-seeing, and great time bonding with friends. Other than the big trips that we have, the executive board of the CLC often plans small local trips and activities for us as well. The visit to the apple orchard was truly a stress reliever. The etiquette dinner and Thanksgiving dinner make this community truly feel like a family. During the summer, the SPEA Abroad in Athens program is open to any Civic Leaders as well.

The Supreme Court

While Civic Leaders Living-Learning Center may not be for everyone, it is a community that fosters so much friendship, passion and leadership definitely helped shape my first-year experience. Civic Leaders Center for me is for sure a home away from home.

Eric Gu