As a student, Krishna Pakala saw the difference his professors made as they helped him navigate challenging courses and utilize campus resources. So it’s no surprise that he now devotes much of his own time and effort to supporting freshmen in the Engineering and Innovation Living and Learning Community (LLC)

Pakala, a clinical assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, is in his third year as faculty in residence for the acclaimed campus housing program. From a group of 18-20 students in fall 2014, he has grown the LLC to include 72 students living in Morrison Hall alongside him, his wife and their son. Along with a faculty member living right down the hall, students get a sense of community and academic course credit. They meet in a regular class to learn study skills, increase confidence in communications and focus on academic performance. Perhaps even more importantly, they gain a sense of belonging.

“I feel like this is a great opportunity for me to make a difference early in a student’s career,” Pakala said. “And it’s a big selling point for their parents. It gives them a sense of getting the biggest bang for their buck, including access to the dean, the provost, the president and even an astronaut.”

Pakala is assisted in the program by two faculty “out of residence,” former astronaut and current distinguished educator in residence Steve Swanson and civil engineering assistant professor Deb Mishra. He also has three program assistants who are members of the community, six sophomore peer mentors and two resident assistants. One of those program assistants, Sarah Knue, credits the program with connecting her to Boise State faculty, providing her with research opportunities and allowing her to develop lifelong friendships.

“This has grown my leadership abilities and confidence as well as reinforced the fact that the LLCs have provided the  foundation for my college experience as a whole,” she said.

Even her research position in Mishra’s lab came about thanks to a recommendation from Pakala. Freshman resident Kendra Noneman, who works in professor Eric Jankowski’s Computational Materials Engineering Lab, said the program provides an environment that is perfect for studying and learning. She’s a particularly big fan of the LLC study groups.

“The classes we take as engineering students are extremely difficult,” she said. “Being able to have friends to study with that only live right down the hall is so helpful.” Noneman notes that regular “evening with the faculty” events are also popular, providing opportunities to interact directly with faculty and learn about research opportunities. “Multiple students throughout the semester picked up internships and research positions just because they got to meet faculty members face to face and express interest in their research,” she said. Pakala now has seven junior-level students who were part of the program as freshmen, and he said their first-year experience was invaluable.

“It’s like they grew up together academically and now they are on par with the best students in the college in the quality of their work,” he said. “The program helps them realize they can be leaders, excel and have fun.”

In addition to the Engineering and Innovation LLC, other communities include Arts and Sciences, Business (Boise State’s first LLC formed in 2004), Health Professions, STEM Education, Leadership and Engagement and Bronco Fit.