College of Education > News and Publications > 2019: 01-03 news > 'Education House' helps students connect with resources, each other

'Education House' helps students connect with resources, each other

The College of Education's Special Living Option (SLO), the First-Year in Education "Education House," addresses the needs of the students who choose to live there and offers experiences that help shape their first year.

Special Living Option students
Ethan Benjamin, left, Emma Alloway and Leah Hummel connected through the College of Education’s Special Living Option, the First-Year in Education "Education House.” (Photo: Annemarie Mountz)
For many students, the first year of college is shaped by where they live on campus and who they meet there. For first-year College of Education students, there's a special option that allows students to live among each other and enjoy a more immersive experience.

The College's Special Living Option (SLO), the First-Year in Education "Education House," places importance on career exploration, multicultural understanding and service. The SLO addresses the needs of the students who choose to live there and offers experiences that help shape their first year.

The College of Education is the third-smallest college at the University, which can make it difficult for new students to become involved in the education community.

"Students in the College often feel like 'unicorns' as compared to other large colleges," said College of Education Adviser Lindsay Hayes, who co-facilitates Education House activities with Fran Arbaugh, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. "We feel it is important for them to meet early to build that pride and sense of community, of belonging to the College."

Students who live in the SLO, located at Sproul Hall in East Halls, are linked with big buddies: upperclassmen who also are in the College.

"Because the College of Education is so small, it's sometimes hard to find the College of Education community at Penn State until you get into upper-level education classes," Ethan Benjamin said. "First-Year in Education SLO immediately connects you to that kind of reclusive education community, whether it's through upperclassmen mentors, other first-years, et cetera."

Benjamin, whose intended major is world language education with a focus in Spanish, feels that opportunities brought to students from the SLO make the College of Education feel "a lot bigger."

Leah Hummel, a freshman intending to major in elementary and early childhood education, has participated in the Big/Little Buddy mentor program and has attended many of the floor dinners offered at the SLO.

"I think the thing I've enjoyed the most is being able to get advice and answers from upperclassmen with education majors," Hummel said. "I enjoyed this because it gave me more in-depth knowledge about the rest of my academic plan and career at Penn State."

The opportunity to meet older students and faculty and have educational conversations is beneficial to students living in the SLO because they get a to have first-hand encounters with those who have spent more time in the College and at Penn State.

Since the process of learning to teach is unique, the SLO must have unique methods of integrating future teachers into the world of education.

"We've got PRAXIS exams, pretty specific required classes, many options in student teaching, and the list goes on," Benjamin said. "It's hard to find information about that on your own, and the First-Year in Education SLO has been a huge resource in figuring out those really niche things that apply only to the College of Education."

While professors and faculty can be helpful resources in learning about opportunities and information within the education field, many students living in the SLO feel that the other students also are a huge help.

"The most beneficial aspect of living in the SLO for me is to be able to build a mini support system," Emma Alloway, a first-year student intending to major in secondary education, social studies option, said. "Most of us are taking the same classes, so it's good to have someone there to help you study and make some of the boring classes a little more fun."

Hummel agrees with Alloway that the community-building aspect of the SLO is a major benefit that comes with choosing to live there.

"For me, the most beneficial aspect of living in the SLO is the community it built," Hummel said. "I feel like sometimes the best way to understand something is having a peer explain or help me instead of a professor."

The community the SLO builds and the experiences students are able to have through it don't end after students finish their first year.

The SLO provides a basis for College of Education students to learn, thrive and stay involved throughout their time at Penn State.

"Students are exposed to other student organizations through their big buddies, and as a result, often join the Education Student Council in order to become big buddies in the future," Hayes said.

Regardless of your major within the College, the First-Year in Education Special Living Option can be a game-changer in terms of a student's Penn State experience.

Benjamin said that living in the SLO is "a great opportunity to connect with other education majors, both first-years like me and upperclassmen."

"Because of the Education House," he said, "I met some of my closest friends here at Penn State, and we've known each other since day one." 

By Abby Fortin (March 2019)