Have You Met Rutgers-Newark?

Honors Living-Learning Community Redefines 'Honors'

The new Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC) at Rutgers University–Newark (RU-N) is preparing students to tackle the world’s most pressing problems – poverty, stagnant socioeconomic mobility, discrimination, scientific illiteracy, and health disparities to name a few.

The HLLC, which began in fall 2016 with 30 students, will expand to 60 students next year and continue to grow until the HLLC has upwards of 500 students in a residential community focused on “Local Citizenship in a Global World”.  

The HLLC has been led and developed by Shirley M. Collado, RU-N’s executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer. Collado envisioned an honors initiative that challenged traditional frameworks for “honors” and merit and emphasized college access and success through a cohort model in which students live and learn together to become citizens with agency in their communities. The HLLC favors a robust admissions rubric to holistically assess a student’s ability to thrive in college, and positively contribute to the greater good.

“We are the first HLLC students, and we have a responsibility as the social justice learning community to exemplify what that means and what social justice is,” said Stephanie Avila (Paterson, N.J.), a first-year student in the Newark College of Arts and Sciences (NCAS).

Before attending RU-N, Avila helped establish her high school’s first “Justice Day,” an event designed to educate her peers on topics of discrimination and inequity.  As an HLLC student, Avila noted that her discussions are now richer as she engages with peers who may have differing opinions, but similar passions and goals.

With a curriculum centered on themes of social justice, the HLLC fosters the development of students eager to make a difference in their communities. One such course in the program is “Introduction to Social Justice,” which addresses topics ranging from rape culture in the United States to racial disparities in the excessive use of force by police officers.

“I want to emphasize how impressed I was with the HLLC students, and their ability to grasp complex material,” said Lindsey McDougle, assistant professor at the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) and instructor for the “Introduction to Social Justice” course.

Although HLLC students contend with a rigorous curriculum, they are provided with a multilayered support system to help them succeed. 

“We have mentors that we’re assigned to, we also have a financial aid advisor, and we have the HLLC directors, Dr. [Sherri-Ann] Butterfield and Dr. [Bil] Leipold, whom we can contact at any time,” said Mariah Matthews (Atlantic City, N.J.), an NCAS first-year student.

Matthews also identified her cohort as an important source of academic and emotional support. “We’re all responsible for each other,” Matthews noted.

Daniel Hernandez (Hawthorne, N.J.), a first-year student in the School of Criminal Justice, credits the HLLC with exposing him to a positive community in which he feels empowered to make a difference.

Hernandez said, “What we’re doing here is special. It’s unique, it’s not something that you see every day, and it’s definitely something that you want to a part of.”