Living Learning Center provides a community dedicated to students’ wellness

Indiana University freshman Gabe Nolley grew up actively participating in an array of sports including tennis, basketball and baseball.

Gabe Nolley

Gabe Nolley volunteers at the Hoosiers Hills Food Bank as part of the School of Public Health – Bloomington’s Living Learning Center.

No longer an athlete, Nolley still hopes to turn his love of sports and active lifestyle into a career in either health fitness or sports programming.

So when he came to IU Bloomington from Loogootee, Ind., Nolley not only wanted to focus on his major, he wanted his living experience to reflect his interest. He found that in the School of Public Health-Bloomington’s Living Learning Center.

“Being healthy has always been a big part of my life,” he said. “I love being active and eating healthy, and this is what the LLC promotes: a healthy lifestyle.”

The School of Public Health’s Living Learning Center began in the 1990s as a fitness and wellness community in the Briscoe Residence Center. Two years ago, the school decided to ramp up the LLC’s efforts.

A full-time program manager was hired, and the focus shifted from mostly physical activity to include a more overall, holistic approach.

“This year, in addition to physical fitness, the LLC is helping students focus on the eight dimensions of wellness,” said Sarah McClure, program manager for the LLC. “Through community service, knowledge-based activities and social programs, our goal is create a community of wellness-focused individuals who, upon completion of our program, will be able to be wellness leaders in their communities.”

Living Learning Center

Students from the LLC participate in this year’s Cardboard Boat Regatta.

A total of 108 students live in the community, five of whom are returning students. The group takes a weekly class together called “Living Well,” which focuses on the eight dimensions of health: intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, environmental, financial, occupational and psychological. Students also participate in group activities such as a team-building retreat at Bradford Woods and tailgating at IU football games, partake in community service and have access to a personal trainer.

“All of these components are extremely helpful in helping our students become public health leaders, whether in an informal way, where they are just helping their friends lead healthier lives, or in very formal ways where they are working in the public health field.,” McClure said. “Our goal is that by the end of the year, they’ll be able to fully understand these concepts, apply them together, understand how they’re interconnected and then later on in their lives, they can help (others) understand that. So we are creating a society that is more healthy and well overall.”

For Jean-Marie Van der Merwe, a freshman studying business, the LLC has provided both an educational experience and a chance to make new friends.

A lifelong athlete, Van der Merwe, like Nolley, has always been interested in living a healthy lifestyle. Although she has stayed active most of her life, being a part of the LLC has broadened her knowledge on topics such the proper ways to train and focusing on mental health.

LLC students

Students from the LLC pose with their T-shirts.

Along with educational opportunities, the center has also provided Van der Merwe with a built-in support system of students who, like her, are in the throes of navigating a whole new world.

“Coming to IU, I knew I wasn’t going to be a college athlete,” she said. “But I still wanted to be fit and be a part of a community that shares the same values I do. Everyone here shares the same lifestyle, so we encourage each other and motivate each other.”

Having a community of like-minded friends was definitely one of the reasons Olivia Ryan chose to live in the LLC.

A freshman studying sports marketing and management, Ryan has come to appreciate the camaraderie on her floor.

“It’s nice living with a bunch of kids that have the same interest as you,” she said. “It’s also great because you meet everyone on your floor, you go to class together, you have lab together, you do a lot together, so you get to know each other faster than you would if you were not in the LLC. I just think it’s a great learning experience across the board.”

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