Lohman Learning Community Celebrates 12th Anniversary

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: February 19, 2014

Dr. Cynthia Boettcher has led the Lohman Learning Community since its inception in 2002. Formerly known as the “Lohman Ladies,” it has become the model for other learning communities across the college.

Former Texas A&M president Robert Gates initially conceived of the idea. Gates sought to build on the success of other programs, such as the Regents Scholars, to develop a learning community for first-generation students seeking teacher certification.  To that end, the Lohman Learning Community develops context where first-generation students can connect and gain a sense of belonging while at Texas A&M. Boettcher echoes this sentiment, “There is a place for everyone here, I truly believe that.”

As the learning community has grown from 28 female students to an average class of 50 coeds in more recent years, it has also grown in influence. Boettcher recalls early discussions surrounding the development of other learning communities because of the high success and graduation rates of students participating in the Lohman Learning Community. Their success helped pave the way for other learning communities. Now, all first-year students transfer students participate in a learning community.

There are other markers of success, too. Boettcher emphasizes the importance of relationship building and student engagement. She says that many students need basic life-skills training. She works with her students to help them learn how to open a bank account, apply for jobs or find local medical care.

Learning communities also serve to introduce students to campus resources. Boettcher shares credit for their success with others who have been influential and integral to creating the sense of connection. Drs. David Byrd and Shailen Singh, and advisors Bonnie Bustos-Rios and Amanda Mathers have collectively advised, mentored, led presentations at the Byrne Center and demonstrated a genuine interest and investment in the students.

Namesakes Carolyn and the late Tommy Lohman were also a constant presence at Lohman Learning Community events, getting to know the students by name. Carolyn is still an active supporter.

Over the yearlong experience, students serve and participate in cultural plunges. Boettcher shares, “I try to get the students out of their comfort zone a little bit.” Some students have visited sites such as the Holocaust Museum or a mosque for the first time. Boettcher also highlights the importance of giving back to her students, and together they select a major project such as Race Walk for the Cure, in honor of Tommy Lohman.

Although the experience only lasts a year, the relationships last a lifetime. Boettcher comments that she’s led study abroad trips where more than half of the participants were former Lohman Learning Community students. She feels that during college, students often form their closest friendships with fellow learning community colleagues. Boettcher has also seen her students graduate and go on to pursue graduate degrees.

Boettcher says that the learning community has its own culture, and once students feel a part of that, they feel secure and are able to hold each other accountable. Ultimately, the Lohman Learning Community is about “helping students find resources to be successful,” said Boettcher. Her approach is to create an atmosphere of safety, honesty and comfort.

She encourages anyone interested in getting involved to do so. “We should be engaging and building relationships. It’s a great way to be impacted and impact lives,” she said. After working with thousands of students, she should know. Through her work, Boettcher is truly living the CEHD mission of transforming lives.

For more information or to learn more about the Lohman Learning Community, contact Dr. George Cunningham, gbcunningham@tamu.edu.