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Laying the foundation: Life in TILE

May 20, 2019 Jim Warner
Three UofL female freshman business majors interlocking arms and standing in the Frazier Hall atrium.

Only a fraction of what our undergrads learn comes from being in the classroom; consider the math: an average student is taking between 12 and 15 credit hours a semester. In a twenty-four hour clock, a student (at best) will be in class for three to five hours a day. Offering programming and support for the remainder of a student’s life is core to programs such as the Reinhardt Academic Center. 

The College of Business wants its students to be lifelong learners, and one of the best ways to instill this desire of knowledge is to identify where growth and teachable moments intersect. It is not nearly enough to think about how our students engage their future behind a school desk; students need to see their future reflected in all aspects of student life, including and especially the residence hall. For many, residential living is the first taste, and test, of freedom.

Living Learning Communities (LLC) are residential programs that allow a diverse group of students who share in a common interest to live and form a community together. Students participate in shared courses and programs as part of their initial transition into the greater college community.

A program within LLC, TILE (Thriving and Innovation through Leadership and Entrepreneurship) is designed for students majoring in business who want to develop individual leadership styles while engaging with leaders, entrepreneurs, and the LLC cohort of future business professionals. TILE also emphasizes the importance of academic engagement, navigating life’s transitions, and how to use innovation to solve problems. Participants of TILE live on the same floor, take classes together, and receive specialized programming focusing on academics, business careers, and social engagement.

The Reinhardt Academic Center coordinates TILE’s activities and living arrangements. From their initial contacts predating Freshmen orientation and programming through the year, the academic counselors work to ensure this experience is memorable and life-changing for the students.

The Class of ‘22

Spend more than a few minutes with this year’s TILE students, and you will hear a few key words echoed in their sentiments: collaboration, community,
support, friendship. Their paths to UofL are as different as their tastes and interests, but the TILE class shares a through-line, the desire to succeed as students.

“I was a very confident high school student, so I figured that I would come to college and I would just take all these classes, have a ton of friends, and dominate this campus by the end of my freshmen year, and none of that happened,” says freshmen marketing major Coliwe Mhlanga. Through bouts of homesickness and loneliness, Coliwe came to lean on her TILE-mates, discovering that her peers were going through similar experiences.  “When she [TILE-mate Emma Bussabarger] talked about feeling how she was feeling, I was so surprised… to know I wasn’t alone and could talk to her was so important.”

Making Connections

In the 2018-19 academic year, TILE consists of 40 full-time Freshmen business majors who live in Louisville Hall. They have all taken CAMP 100 (a general orientation class) and CIS 250. TILE students also took ECON 202 in the Spring semester.

Accounting major Abby Hall has come to appreciate the accessibility to her TILE-mates. “It’s nice to know that I can shoot a quick text to someone in the LLC about my homework anytime and that they can message me as well… I don’t think I would have had a chance to feel like I could lean on these people if I wasn’t in TILE. It’s so easy to go down the hall and talk to one another.” Learning to reach out and help one another has not only allowed for the students to grow closer as peers, but the students’ time in TILE has helped illuminate their own skillsets. Through collaboration, the unit becomes stronger.

As a student who comes from a theater arts background, Shelby Nasser understands how different traits can pull together to build a successful show — or in this case — LLC. “Being on the same floor with people who have different strengths has been important since some of us are better note takers or more organized for the classroom… others are more creative thinkers so being able to put these different strengths together make us all more successful.” These experiences have helped codify her belief that being at the College of Business was the right decision. “A lot of artists are not business minded and TILE and the counselors have helped to show me how you can take these skills into the arts and be successful.”

Community Leadership

Beyond the classroom, TILE students have had the opportunity to hear a variety of local leaders from Louisville’s business community including Annie Harlow & Leslie Wilson (founders of Hi-Five Doughnuts), Chuck Denny (Regional President, PNC Bank), and Mark Hohmann (CFO, Goodwill Industries of Kentucky).

“Meeting these leaders has been so important to me,” says marketing major Shelby Nasser. “These professionals have told us there is a place for business everywhere and you can be an entrepreneur if you work hard and believe in yourself. Hearing that has really helped me the most.”

Recently, their field trip to Heine Brothers meant another learning experience, navigating TARC. “It was on my first time [on TARC] and wasn’t sure about it—or how it’d be different from the student shuttle. It was only a few stops, but it was something we got to experience together,” as Nasser, Mhlanga, and the Bussabargers shared a laugh over the trip.

Dorm Life

Learning to work together is only part of the experience TILE aims to teach its students. There is also the aspect of negotiating the communal space that is dorm life. “I’ve only lived with my family, so learning how other people live in a shared spaced has been a great experience.”  Anna Bussabarger and her twin sister Emma may have grown up under the same roof, but here they had to discover the roommate experience away from one another. While a change, it’s given both an opportunity to grow as individuals. For Emma it was important to have that space, “I wanted to live with someone I didn’t know and had to work through those challenges as well. It’s been stressful at times but totally worth it.”

Life After TILE

While the year for these TILE students is drawing to a close, many of them are going to move on together as roommates, opting for a variety of student housing including The Nine, with promises of game nights and keeping in touch beyond the hallways at Frazier Hall. Regardless of their journey from here, this year in TILE has not only made the transition from high school to college easier, but it has also given this highly motivated group of students a true head start on a business world which becomes more challenging and increasingly competitive.

“It is truly a pleasure watching these students grow over the year,” says Academic Counselor, Sr. Katie Etheridge. “From CAMP to now, it’s been wonderful and is one of the best parts of my job here at the Reinhardt Academic Center.”

“College can feel like you’re the only one going through it, but in reality, we are all figuring it out and discover ourselves as college students. We are also figuring out what we want to do with our lives, and what can bring to this community,” Coliwe Mhlanga says with an earnest smile. “Being in TILE has helped me connect and bond. It’s been an amazing experience.”

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