New Learning Communities Explore Culture, Identity, and North Coast Biology

Sep 27, 2019

Humboldt State freshmen were welcomed into two new learning communities, Among Giants and Creando Raíces (Creating Roots), focusing on the unique biology of the North Coast, and strong foundations of identity and social justice.

Among Giants students explore the redwood forest behind campus.

These communities automatically enroll students in certain classes, provide additional mentoring and support, and encourage a sense of belonging. They’re among seven learning communities at HSU launched in the last few years: Klamath Connection, Rising Tides, Stars to Rocks, Students for Violence Prevention, and Global Humboldt. Klamath Connection has already been shown to improve success rates. (Read more about Klamath Connection’s success rates).

Among Giants connects first-year Biological Sciences majors with Humboldt’s stunning biodiversity—the world’s tallest trees and the other plants and animals that live in the redwood forest and coastal prairies. Students studying Biology, Botany, or Zoology will also learn broad scientific perspectives and about the culture and ecology of the North Coast.

During their summer immersion, Among Giants students visited the Arcata Community Forest and Redwood National and State Parks. They conducted field research to learn techniques for monitoring biodiversity of plants, animals, and microbes. They examined visual plant identification, explored methods for assessing mammal diversity, set up wildlife camera traps, and collected samples of surface soil to study microbial diversity. They will continue some projects during the fall semester, including monitoring the game cameras for one month.

Among Giants students have already reported that getting right into the program, exploring the redwood forest, getting Tribal perspectives on the region, and getting to know each other and their professors was meaningful to them.

In Creando Raíces, students from a variety of majors get practical experience with community building, identity, and social justice. Designed for students who want to go into teaching and service-oriented professions, majors in the first cohort included Social Work, English, Kinesiology, and History.

“These are designed to impact the sense of belonging and community ties,” says Corrina Wells, Creando Raíces coordinator. “We’re focusing on social and cultural impacts and centering on the Chicano and Latinx experience. Students don’t have to identify this way, but centralizing their stories and knowledge is important because our campus is diverse and there’s a large Latinx population. Our learning community reflects that and the school’s demographics.”

Creando Raíces students also bonded outdoors during their summer immersion during a rafting trip on the Trinity River. Another portion of their immersion was an introduction to writing as a tool of empowerment—strong writing and communication skills will be a recurring focus of the program.

Students will learn from counselors, teachers, and social workers about the local community, join the Y.E.S. Volunteer Opportunity Program event at Potowat Health Village, engage with work at Eureka’s Jefferson Community Center, and be involved with on-campus events and organizations like the Campus Dialogue on Race and El Centro Académico Cultural.

Creando Raíces is funded by a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (DHSI) program, which promotes teaching as a prospective career for HSU Hispanic and low-income students. .

Among Giants is supported by a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) majors. .