The Thompson Scholars Learning Community (TSLC) is a college success and transition program initiated in 2008 and funded by the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation in partnership with the University of Nebraska (NU) system. TSLC Programs exist on three NU campuses (UNK, UNL, UNO) and range in size from approximately 200-600 first- and second-year students with over 2,300 total TSLC scholars at NU each year. TSLC provides resources and support for entering first-generation and low-income college students through a comprehensive program structure that includes financial assistance, mentorship, and academic and social support. Students who participate in the TSLC also receive the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation Scholarship to assist in covering college expenses, primarily the cost of tuition, for up to five years. Programming and services implemented in students’ first two years of college comprise the primary focus of the program—though support is offered to students beyond the first two years.
The overall purpose of TSLC is to facilitate a successful college transition and promote a pathway to college completion. The program aims to foster students’ academic, social, and civic development through a network of supports designed to nourish student success. The main programmatic components include: learning community courses, residential (or commuter student) community, mentoring from upper level program participants, and programming activities offered by TSLC staff. Over the course of the program, TSLC students participate in a range of academic, social, career development, and community service activities including financial literacy sessions, resume writing workshops, service learning trips, student organizations, and more. In the first two years, TSLC students also enroll in 6-7 small learning community courses (e.g., first year seminars, introduction to research skills) intended to prepare students for college level work and facilitate a successful transition. Some courses are co-taught by TSLC peer academic leaders or peer mentors.
The TSLC program incorporates a range of social activities and structures designed to promote meaningful social exchanges between students and key program affiliates including faculty, mentors, and peer leaders. Campuses offer a residential living-learning community or other common space (e.g., TSLC lobby or office) where TSLC scholars can build relationships with program students, staff, and faculty. TSLC programs also liaise with faculty leaders to develop and teach TSLC courses, provide mentoring to students, discuss student progress, and identify solutions to address concerns about students through early warning systems. Faculty and staff involvement is complemented by trained mentors who are assigned to meet with TSLC students to introduce additional guidance and scaffolding to their college experience (e.g., study cafes, dinners).