Oct 05, 2016 By Victoria Grdina
A group of University of Nebraska–Lincoln students traveled to Chicago over the weekend of the Nebraska-Northwestern game, but these students were visiting the city for something other than football.
This is the second year the Learning Community program has offered students the chance to take its Big Trip to Chicago. About 80 students from various Learning Communities joined this year’s trip and spent the weekend exploring the city and its career opportunities. Fourteen of those students were from the Computer Science and Engineering Learning Community: Programming and Building the Future.
“They usually come away from this thinking that, ‘I could work in a big city or a cool tech company,’” said Jenna Huttenmaier, Recruitment and Retention Coordinator at CSE. “I think it’s good for them to get out of their comfort zone and explore something else.”
For CSE students, the weekend included tours of Signal, a cross-channel marketing company, and UI Labs, a research and commercialization collaborative that’s also a university partner. Following the tours, students were able to talk with professionals of both organizations about their experience in the industry. Students were also able to get the full Chicago experience with visits to the Navy Pier and 360 Chicago, a tour of the Museum of Science and Industry, and an evening at the Second City comedy club—all at a very affordable price.
“I think it opened up a whole new world for them, full of opportunities that they maybe never realized were there,” Huttenmaier said. “I think it’s just fun for them to get off of campus, hang out with their friends, and do something besides study.”
Student Ben Galusha said he especially enjoyed talking with a professional who has been successful in achieving career goals similar to his own.
“Getting the chance to tour Signal, a relatively small startup, gave me another taste of the startup atmosphere that I'm really coming to like,” Galusha said. “Our guide also had experience founding multiple startups, and being someone who's considered starting a company myself, I found it very interesting to hear about his experiences and the things he learned from them.”
The Programming and Building the Future Learning Community includes about 40 CSE freshmen who are grouped together in the University Suites on campus. They’re also grouped together in the same courses, receiving the same assignments and professors. A Learning Community mentor is also available to offer them support, hold weekly study sessions, and assist in planning semesters. Student Kristi Daigh said joining the Learning Community has provided a great support system for her, especially with a difficult major like computer engineering.
“I have found that the program is incredibly beneficial to CSE students in particular,” said Daigh. “Some students start off knowing nothing about code whatsoever, while others may know one or two languages really well from the get-go. It's important to make connections with other CSE students because they might be strong in areas where you struggle. Or perhaps not and, in that case, at least you have someone to struggle with.”
Not only does the Learning Community help students make connections with each other to improve academically, but it also helps them establish relationships to grow professionally. In addition to the Big Trip, the Learning Community organizes at least one activity per month, many of which offer opportunities to explore more career options.
“We do other company visits throughout the year and students have made some really great connections,” Huttenmaier said. “A lot of students have gotten internships after touring companies specifically and networking with professionals in the field of those companies.”
Galusha said that being a part of the Learning Community has not only provided him with exciting professional and learning experiences, but meaningful bonding experiences as well.
“I've had a great time going to various LC events, and living on the same floor with a bunch of CSE students is very cool,” Galusha said. “The Learning Community tends to force people out of their comfort zone in ways that might never happen if we were left to ourselves.”