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Courses & Programs

Learning Communities

Work with other students as you explore a topic through a multi-disciplinary lens

summer/fall 2021 lc offerings

What is a Learning Community?

A Learning Community is usually a combination of two courses organized around a common theme. The connection between the subject matter in each course is emphasized so that information and skills learned in one of the courses can be applied to the other courses in the learning community. The same students enroll in all the courses in a learning community and the instructors team teach. Students learn collaboratively and assignments are integrated. At the end of the semester, each student gets a grade and credit for each of the courses that are part of the learning community.

Who should enroll in a Learning Community?

New, continuing, returning, or transfer student who are interested in being connected, supported, challenged, and excited during their time at HCC. 

Why should you join a Learning Community?
  • Improve your chances for academic success
  • Earn higher grades
  • Complete two or more requirements for your degree at one time
  • Connect your learning across courses in collaborative and active ways
  • Enjoy smaller class sizes
  • Improve your critical thinking skills by sharing and connecting topics, ideas, and assignments between classes
  • Develop a supportive network of peers, faculty, and staff
  • Enjoy closer, more supportive working relationships with professors in and outside class
  • Develop more confidence in your own abilities
  • Practice team-building and communication skills that are transferable to your daily life
  • Make new friends by spending more time with students from different cultures and majors
  • Make studying easier with ready-made study groups
  • Coordinate your homework to save time and stay on schedule with assignments
  • Get better connected with helpful resources on our campus like the Writing Center, Math Center, Pathways, and tutoring
  • Prepare for transfer and the possibility of scholarships
  • Have fun participating in a wide variety of group, campus, and community activities
what are the outcomes of participating in a learning community?
  1. Develop academic skills that will enhance core competencies, including: critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, effective communication, and knowledge of diversity
  2. Integrate your learning – across courses (and disciplines), over time, and/or between the classroom, campus, and community
  3. Construct knowledge using the methods, tools, and conventions from two or more disciplines, perspectives, information sources, media, and technologies
  4. Understand and appreciate human diversity, with a focus on the analysis of issues including but not limited to race, gender(ed) constructions, ethnicity, sexual orientations, age, social class, disabilities, and religious sectarianism.
  5. Learn actively and collaboratively both in and out of class

Explore the kinds of LCs we offer by reading this list of sample classes:

Teaching Math

This linked course enables students interested in teaching to explore the field of education and strengthen mathematics skills. Two visits to the Children's Museum at Holyoke will be included. A creative assignment related to the museum will help students meet the course requirements for both EDU 100 and MTH 085. NOTE: A 10-hour field study in a local classroom is required as part of EDU 100.

Creative Teaching

This linked course enables students interested in teaching to explore the field of education and strengthen English skills. Two visits to the Children's Museum at Holyoke will be included. A creative assignment related to the museum will help students meet the course requirements for both EDU 100 and ENG 095. NOTE: A 10-hour field study in a local classroom is required as part of EDU 100.

Just Food

This course is an introduction to the science of nutrition in the context of social and environmental justice. While building nutrition literacy, we will examine nutrition through an ecological and economic lens. We will focus on the individual, interpersonal, socioeconomic, and environmental factors that affect food access and public health. We will also examine the impact of agriculture and food processing on the environment, working conditions for farm and factory workers, and the government policies that shape our food access and decisions. There will be a service learning component in this course in which students will put their food justice knowledge in to practice by working with a local community organization (specific project to be determined, but potential partners include Holyoke Boys & Girls Club and the Picknelly Adult & Family Education Center.)

First Year

Interested in a career in a health industry? Math and English will play a key role in your success. Intro to Health Careers will be partnered with developmental math and English to stress importance of building foundations of necessary core elements.


As one community, the Earth's inhabitants are faced with many critical problems in the 21st century: extinction, diminishing energy resources, increasing population, and human civilizations' limited vision of alternatives. Whether Homo sapiens can learn to manage their lifestyles in a sustainable manner will impact the long-term survival of all the species on this planet. This is the concern that animates this Learning Community. Its participants will explore in expository writing and class discussion the interconnectedness of all lives on Earth in issues particularly related to energy and food production and consumption.

Monsters & Freaks

The monster is everywhere in popular culture: In novels such as Frankenstein and Dracula, young adult literature like the Twilight Saga, television series such as "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," as well as short fiction, comic books, graphic novels, and films. Yet the monster myth has existed for thousands of years, and has been widely used by writers as a vehicle for addressing a host of provocative topics. How can we account for the popularity, adaptability, and unique appeal of the monster figure? With what fears and fantasies in the human psyche does it resonate? In terms of the literary genre, how do we classify these increasingly diverse works? The course explores the many aspects of this phenomenon, from its origins in the gothic tradition to its recent incarnation as urban fantasy and paranormal romance. We will also look at the monster as rendered through comedy (the films Young Frankenstein and Monsters, Inc.) to explore the ways in which the monster has been recast. Readings include the early stories of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Lord Byron, as well as more recent works. Clips from films will be viewed during class, and theoretical works by Freud, Asma, and others will assist us in our investigations.

Philosophy of Biology

More than sixty percent of our food has transgenetic organisms in it, and we are more and more dependent upon computers. We are thus fundamentally supported by the earth's productions (especially air and food) and computers. A critical examination of these essential components of our lives will be the focus of our work within the course. Please join us as we explore the intersections between biology and philosophy in order to analyze scientific ideas and their ecological and philosophical consequences. Our investigations will begin with Darwin's Origin of The Species to better understand the evolutionary relationships of organisms. From Darwin we will branch off into two significant contemporary avenues of study: (1) The genetic engineering of food, and (2) The production of viruses, both living and digital. We will thus examine the biological, philosophical, and socio-political foundations of contemporary life.


How do men and women overcome unexpected crises, man-made catastrophes, and natural disasters? In this LC, we will read memoirs, articles, essays, and short stories that explore the inner strength that people discover when they experience loss of home, displacement, war, addiction, or other difficult circumstances. What are the psychological qualities of a survivor? How do survivors connect to other people and community? We'll examine the transformative role adversity can play in elevating the human spirit. The writing assignments will include some personal experience, but mostly will be based on the readings and will include one research essay.


Why do people commit crime? This course uses the acclaimed HBO series "The Wire" as a semester-long case study to examine the social, political, and economic theoretical foundations and explanations for criminal behavior, as well as to critically investigate relevant policy solutions. Note: This class contains mature content.

Teen Mom

In this class, we will explore the causes and consequences of teen pregnancy through a sociological and literary lens. What role do institutions, schools, family, gender, and identity play in this issue? Where is there support for teen parents, and how are they being let down? Holyoke, MA has repeatedly had the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the state of Massachusetts. How is the city of Holyoke addressing this issue? We will explore that question through "hands-on" service-learning projects with organizations that aim to improve the lives of teen parents. We will also analyze the literary techniques of writers who illuminate the experiences of teen parents in novels, plays, poetry, and short stories. Works of literature may include: Conception by Kalisha Buckhanon, the play Independence by Lee Blessing, and the poetry of young mothers studying at the Care Center in Holyoke.

Civil War

This learning community explores the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War from the 1840s to 1877. The primary goal of this LC is to understand the multiple meanings of a transforming event in American history, as reflected in historical writings and literature. Broad themes are closely examined from both an historical and a literary perspective, including: The crisis of union and disunion in the expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; and the social and political challenges of Reconstruction.


Consciousness: We take it for granted, but beyond the simple dichotomy of "awake" and "asleep" lies a vast terrain of provocative and strange states of consciousness that challenge our notions of what it means to be a "self" in "reality." Using literature and works of psychology, philosophy, and anthropology, we'll look at consciousness from a wide range of angles. We'll travel with aboriginal people in Australia in "dreamtime," read the stories of those in the throes of mind-altering substances, conduct our own month-long meditation experiment, and examine dreams and hypnotic states, all in order to explore what consciousness is and what it means.

Gaia Meets Psyche

Gaia theory, named after the Greek goddess of the Earth (a daughter of Chaos and the mother of the Sky and Time), suggests that planet Earth is a living system, a self-regulating body much like our own bodies. James Lovelock, a co-founder of the modern Gaia theory, believes that the idea of Gaia "is for those who like to walk or simply stand and stare, to wonder about the Earth and the life it bears, and to speculate about the consequences of our own presence here." Psychology is named after Psyche, the Greek goddess of the Soul (who married Eros, the son of the goddess of Love), and the new field of ecopsycology believes that people benefit from a loving relationship with nature. Theodore Roszak, one of the founders of ecopsychology, writes that "ecopsychology seeks to heal the fundamental alienation between the person and the natural environment." Our learning community will strive for a clearer understanding and appreciation of our natural environment and its relationship to our human condition through the study of ecopsychology and environmental literature. The class will include readings, writing assignments, seminars, films, field trips, and creative projects. Prerequisites: English 102 and Psychology 110.

Politics of Food

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once wrote: "You are what you eat." Do you ever wonder where your food comes from? Or where your garbage ends up? As we face increasing global environmental concerns, people throughout the world are seeking answers that will bring our planet to a healthier, more sustainable condition. All environmental controversies involve ethical dilemmas. Should we develop communities or leave open space? Where should we dispose of toxic wastes? What is a fair allocation of resources? How do we ensure clean air and water, and who should pay for it? Will the current agricultural practices provide both safe and healthy food, and sustain the planet? In this honors Learning Community we will explore these dilemmas as well as others and, more significantly, attempt to discern how the choices we make determine our existences and, perhaps more importantly, determine the lives of future generations, as well as the existence of the earth itself. "Land," Aldo Leopold once wrote, "is a system of interdependent parts which should be regarded as a community and not a commodity." We will begin from Leopold's insight concerning the land that we rely upon to survive to explore various ecological philosophies and how these conceptual frameworks help us understand our natural place on our planet.


The Pilgrims introduced Thanksgiving. Northern states opposed slavery. The Civil Rights Movement ended segregation. None of these statements is correct, and yet all continue to be taught as historical truth. Where do these false narratives come from? Why do they persist and why do we continue to believe them, even when evidence clearly demonstrates their falsehood? Why, as a nation, do we put forward such simplistic and incorrect narratives and repeatedly teach them, even when such stories feel irrelevant and boring to many skeptical students? This 200-level Learning Community will use the lens of history and literature to explore historical narratives, while unpacking some of the nation's primary myths in order to reveal their political, social, and cultural functions. Prerequisites: ENG 102 (concurrent)/Any history course.


Einstein said, "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." If reality is an illusion, then it must not be real. If reality lurks within illusion, then how do we look for it? Just as Alice travels down the rabbit-hole into Wonderland – a land of logical nonsense and deliberate contradictions – our colloquium will make a journey to examine the multiple dimensionality of life. Hidden below the surface of things, we'll discover ambiguity and double meanings everywhere. We'll have to pause and question our own preconceived ideas about reality, what we know, and how we know it, or whether we know anything at all. We may truly be confused at times, but as we persist we'll find ourselves arriving at another dimension, one where new ways of seeing and understanding are possible. While Alice attends mad tea parties and quirky croquet games, we'll pause to marvel at the garden before us: perfectly ordered patterns and shapes, mirrors and symmetry. We'll play in the garden for a while and then we'll meander to Flatland, a world bound to only two dimensions, and to Arcadia, where space and time travel are possible. Here, we'll stumble upon some intricate and eerily beautiful patterns named fractals and the self-symmetry they display. Oh, we'll also run into some chaos, but don't worry; we'll make it back okay – a bit wiser, perhaps, and with a different understanding of the beauty that surrounds us.

The International Learning Community Faculty Scholars Program

HCC is now offering a unique professional development opportunity for international faculty scholars interested in the pedagogy and practice of Learning Communities.

Over the course of eight weeks, the International Learning Community Faculty Scholars Program immerses participants in an actual learning community classroom as both a student and co-teacher. It draws on the wisdom of experienced learning community practitioners as well as the growing research on what makes Learning Communities an effective classroom strategy for transforming student learning and improving instruction.


Each participant will be assigned to an ongoing HCC learning community class and will have the opportunity to learn with students and teach with faculty. In addition, participants will engage in a faculty seminar on key readings in the LC literature and consult with the LC program coordinator on a weekly basis.

It is the objective of this program that through experiencing and documenting a multi-disciplinary LC course in action, participants will familiarize themselves with not only the fundamental knowledge but also the skills necessary to administer a learning communities program. Please find below a sample outline of the program activities and events:

  • Welcome reception with HCC faculty and administrators
  • Participation in two HCC Learning Community faculty teams in planning, implementation, and assessment
  • Attendance in a weekly faculty seminar on key LC-related texts and materials
  • Participation in scheduled meetings with local collaborating college and community partners, e.g., the iCONs (Integrated Concentration in Science) program at UMass
  • Attendance at the Atlantic Center for Learning Communities Retreat (registration not included)
  • Weekly consultation with the LC Coordinator regarding LC pedagogy, and program policies and practices
  • Program coordination for all events held at or sponsored by HCC
  • Farewell reception with students, faculty, and administrators
Program Outcome

Participants will be prepared to design, teach, and assess their own LC courses back at their home institutions.

Program Tuition

$4,500/participant. Please note: Program tuition does not include airfare, housing, meals, or other transportation costs.

2016-17 Academic Year Program Dates & Application Deadlines:

Fall semester program:
September - October 2016; Application Deadline for Fall Program: June 15, 2016

Spring semester program:
February - March 2017; Application Deadline for Spring Program: November 15, 2016


Professor Jack Mino, LC Program Coordinator at
Professor Miles Xian Liu, English at

application process

The International Learning Community Faculty Scholars Program at Holyoke Community College welcomes faculty participation by all types of educational institutions from across the globe. Although individuals can be just as instrumental in initiating a pedagogical transformation on a campus, we strongly encourage team participation because of the interdisciplinary nature of LC pedagogy. Our program can usually accommodate a team of five members each semester. Applications are reviewed for project focus and potential impact on student learning, and graduation rates. Teaching faculty from secondary schools, colleges, and universities, as well as graduate students, are all invited to apply, especially those new to Learning Communities.

Each team may include an academic administrator or a student affairs professional in addition to teaching faculty. Other key team members may include the person responsible for faculty development on campus or a person who works on assessment. Individual applicants will be put together with those who share similar goals and challenges. Applications for each fall semester class must be submitted by June 15 each year, and applications for each spring semester class must be submitted by November 15 each year.

Download the application here

Reading & Resources

The following is a small selection of reading materials that we hope will prove valuable as you explore Learning Communities and their impact on student success.

radio interview: why are lcs awesome?