TLC Celebrates 15 Years of Student Success

Committed to the success of LMU’s first-year African-American students, The Learning Community is celebrating its 15th anniversary.

For 15 years, the goal of The Learning Community (TLC) has always been to increase retention and graduation rates of African-American students at LMU. While first-year retention for all LMU students currently sits at 90 percent, more than 97 percent of TLC participants stay at LMU for their second year, according to Dr. Jennifer Belichesky-Larson, Assistant Dean of Students. Additionally, the four-year graduation rate of TLC students is 69 percent — compared to 67 percent for all of LMU and 60 percent for the university’s African American students.

To accomplish this, TLC begins with a summer program that brings its first-year students to campus for three weeks prior to the start of school. This allows participants to transition into their first year at LMU by becoming familiar with the campus and its resources.

“TLC is the reason I remained at LMU,” says Ariel Lawrence, TLC alumna and former program director. “In just three weeks, I was able to forge meaningful relationships with my peers, many of whom I still keep keep in contact with today.”

In its 15 years, TLC has also developed into a transformational leadership program designed to engage students from their freshman through senior year and after their time on the bluff. Students in TLC participate in a year-long leadership course, where they receive individual mentorship — often from TLC and LMU alumni — as well as invitations to special engagements.

“As part of TLC, I identified the mentors who have helped me achieve post-graduate success,” adds Lawrence, who now works as a campaign manager in Los Angeles. “It empowered me to lead during my time at LMU, and it helped me understand that the lessons I learned in the program are lifelong lessons I can use in many situations.”

To celebrate the program’s 15-year milestone, TLC is set to host a reception on April 9 to allow its alumni, current students and faculty to connect and engage.

“Celebrating 15 years of The Learning Community is necessary because the program has helped to shape the lives of hundreds of African-American students at LMU,” says Amber Fields, TLC’s interim director and alumna. “It is important to acknowledge such a unique and successful program that instills community, growth and academic success.”

All alumni of TLC are encouraged to participate in the TLC Alumni Engagement Program, which connects past participants with current students through volunteer and mentor programs as well as the Leadership Speaker Series. The speaker series allows alumni to share their LMU experience and areas of expertise with participants through lectures, workshops, keynote addresses, mixers and programs hosted at their workplace.

“As an alum, I recognize the importance of interacting with incoming TLC cohorts,” says Lawrence. “TLC serves as an avenue for its participants to take pride in LMU, which I personally consider my second home. Seeing TLC’s growth over the past few years reaffirms the importance of the program and impacts my desire to remain involved.”