Rekha Marcus, Taz Johnson and Annie DeBattista, student LLC leaders at UBC Okanagan
It isn’t every day that students get to do over their high school prom, but that’s just what happened at UBCO last month when the Social Justice and Change Living Learning Community and the Pride Resource Centre joined forces to create the first campus Pride Prom.
Taz Johnson, fourth year biology student, Social Justice and Change LLC leader
The idea was the brainchild of the Pride Resource Centre and Taz Johnson—a fourth year biology student and leader of the Social Justice and Change Living Learning Community (LLC)—who had not yet come out as non-binary when they attended their own high school prom, and so at the time wasn’t able to present as their authentic self.
“I spoke to a lot of people who had similar experiences, and they were a bit disappointed that prom wasn’t a magical night for them,” says Taz, who thought it would be meaningful to recreate those memories for any UBCO student who didn’t get the prom they’d hoped for.
In the end, interest in the event was even higher than anticipated. “We had to up the amount the tickets available because they sold out really quickly,” says Taz, adding that the hope is for it to become an annual event.
“Working on the different projects (with your LLC) allows you to meet so many people, make connections and have the opportunity to see your ideas come to life.” — Taz Johnson, Biology student and Social Justice and Change LLC leader
LLCs: bringing residents together
Pride Prom is just one example of dozens of events and initiatives to come out of Living Learning Communities at UBCO this year.
LLCs, as they are known, are Student Housing programs that allow residents to live in a close-knit community with peers with similar interests and values. They provide leadership, community service, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities, while allowing residents to build relationships with like-minded partners on and off-campus.
UBCO Student Housing offers 10 LLCs. There’s Go Global, Expressive Arts, Healthy Living, Outdoor and Adventure, and more.
The Indigenous LLC gives its residents the chance to connect with the Syilx/Okanagan people, attend Indigenous celebrations, and join events hosted by UBCO’s Indigenous Centre.
The Intercultural Leadership LLC promotes cross-cultural understanding and exchange for students from diverse backgrounds, while the Leadership and Civic Engagement LLC brings together students committed to engaging in civic activities, like organizing blood drives, or connecting with community partners who help those who are unhoused.
Each LLC is housed in a residence building and supported by a Residence Life staff member who facilitates tailored extra-curricular programs and educational opportunities.
Partnering for sustainability
Rekha Marcus, Zoology student, Sustainable Leadership LLC leader
Rekha Marcus is a zoology student and leader of the Sustainable Leadership LLC, which kicked off the year with a bus trip to a local thrift store to learn about sustainability in fashion and transportation.
“We have had other activities that allowed residents to connect deeper with sustainable ideas, such as calculating our carbon footprints and setting some sustainable New Years’ resolutions,” says Rekha. “We also partnered with some other RAs to run Knit Don’t Quit, where we taught residents how to crochet and knit so they can make their own clothes. Our biggest program is Swap Not Shop, a campus-wide clothing exchange event where residents can donate their gently used clothing in exchange for picking out new clothes.”
For Rekha, her LLC is not just impacting the lives of its members, it’s also having an impact on the greater residence and campus community.
“One of the biggest partnerships we developed was with Food Services at UBCO,” she says. “Together, the residents in the Sustainability LLC came up with a list of proposals and feedback for Pritchard Dining Hall on how they could make the dining hall more sustainable in terms of food waste.”
“One of my residents proposed for Pritchard to always have rice available, which was a social sustainability initiative to make sure students—who are used to consuming lots of rice—can still find that here. And they advertised a survey…so students could give specific feedback on the food they were eating so we can reduce food waste.”
“Inclusive spaces like the Innovation and Technology LLC allow me and others like me to find a sense of belonging, which is all I could ever ask for.” — Annie DeBattista, Electrical Engineering student and Innovation and Technology LLC leader
Innovating inclusive spaces
Annie DeBattista, Electrical Engineering student, Innovation and Technology LLC leader
Annie DeBattista—an electrical engineering student and leader of the Innovation and Technology LLC—says she was motivated to make connections with other women in the typically male-dominated field.
“As a woman studying electrical engineering, finding a community of people with similar interests and goals is the keystone to my growth and success,” she says. “I’m proud of the programs I got to run and the community of young innovators I got to help build.”
“My hope for the LLC is to see as many different kinds of people as possible find a home where they can share (their) passion,” she says. “Being a minority in your degree and career can be pretty isolating. But inclusive spaces like the Innovation and Technology LLC allow me and others like me to find a sense of belonging, which is all I could ever ask for.”
Meaningful and lasting relationships
For Taz, one of the biggest benefits of the LLC program is that it makes it easier for students new to residence or UBC to make meaningful and lasting relationships.
“It’s so much easier to build connections when you go in knowing these people have something in common with you, that you have the same passion,” says Taz. “Working on the different projects (with your LLC) allows you to meet so many people, make connections and have the opportunity to see your ideas come to life.”
And it’s not just about offering a safe space for students to share their individual experiences and opinions, but also learn about issues they may not have known about and engage with the community in a fulfilling and active manner.
“It’s been a wonderful experience to work with the Sustainable Leadership LLC … and watch residents learn and grow through this process,” adds Rekha. “I have seen many residents joining clubs and taking initiative on their own. … Many residents have made connections and developed ideas that I cannot take credit for, but I’m glad the Sustainable Leadership LLC provided them with the space to do this.”
Beyond the opportunities for social connection and learning outside the classroom, LLCs give residents a platform to explore their passions with other students in their community. They let students shape their campus experience by providing a place to bring creative ideas to life or start new campus traditions. Whether it’s celebrating inclusive communities, championing sustainability or supporting underrepresented groups in STEM, we’re proud that UBC’s LLCs let students express their values and mold their own university experience.
Explore all the Living Learning Communities at UBC Okanagan.