Austin Scholars Living-Learning Community Nearly Doubles in Size

The Austin Scholars living-learning community is nearly doubling in size from 67 last year to 121 freshmen for the coming year, including commuters for the first time.

It’s the oldest living-learning community on campus. It was originally funded by the Flatley Foundation for first-year students but enthusiasm has been so great, the program has expanded each year and now includes freshman through junior classes. In 2019 it will probably include seniors.

Sixty of the 67 freshmen who took part last year are continuing in the program for their sophomore years, said the program advisor Sister Jeanmarie “Sister Jeanne” Gribaudo, CSJ, who is also director of Merrimack’s City of God Program. Another 34 juniors will be in the program.

Resident students in the community live together in Monican Centre and South House, take part in two hours of volunteer service weekly in any one of a number of organizations every week in Lowell or Lawrence, Mass., and on Fridays take part in theological reflection to understand how the things they learn in the classroom mesh with what they see, hear and experience during volunteer work, Sister Jeanne said.

“I would say it’s part of President Hopey’s Agenda for Distinction in that it really is a Catholic college’s answer to the question: What does it mean for us to be a contemporary Catholic college,” she said.

The reflections give students the time to stop and find the right words to express what their service means to themselves and how much they have compared to others. It’s meaningful that the students who take part in reflection can see they are not alone in an unfamiliar place, Sister Jeanne said.

“This gives me a sense of hope that there is something in our young people that respond to a place of community, reflections and service,” Sister Jeanne said. “It gives me hope for the future and I’m in awe of the response of the students.”


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