By Dave Cannon, '10
 
On a weekend morning during the fall semester, a small group of Richmond students were up at the crack of dawn. Their plan was to meet at a school parking lot in rural Grundy, Va. Their purpose? Help provide healthcare to local residents in need.
 
"We couldn't find a parking spot — there were people camping out in their cars," said Alexa Gruber, a sophomore in the process of designing her own global health major. "It's one thing to learn about poverty in class, but seeing it in person is entirely different."
 
Gruber is part of the Sophomore Scholars in Residence (SSIR) Global Health Program, one of the University's living-learning communities. As part of the course curriculum, the 15 students in the global health community volunteered to assist Remote Area Medical (RAM), a non-profit relief corps that provides free healthcare to people in remote areas around the world.
 
"RAM turned the Grundy high school into a running hospital, providing patients with dental, eye and medical care," said biology major Chad Crigger, '11. "We had no idea what we were in for. The lines of people were unbelievable."
 
Gruber, who is an aspiring dentist, assisted professionals in providing dental care. She was also able to connect with dental students and learn about additional ways to gain experience before applying to dental school.
 
"I'm now involved with Missions of Mercy, the dental student group that was there," Gruber said. "So for me, it was a networking opportunity, too."
 
The trip to Grundy is just one example of how SSIR and living-learning programs extend education beyond the classroom. Students are able to develop mentoring relationships with program faculty members, who often provide additional insight into their academic interests and career goals.
 
As members of SSIR, the global health students live in close proximity, facilitating the integration of social and academic experiences.
 
"It really fosters experiential learning and encourages the pursuit of knowledge outside the classroom," Crigger said. "The program offers you something you don't get in class. I think it's the best thing I've done at Richmond."
 
For more information about living-learning communities, visit the Sophomore Scholars in Residence program.