By Karen Augenstein, For The Miami Student

A record number of students applied to live in Miami’s Scholar Leader living-learning community for the 2016-17 academic year. The community, based in Stoddard and Elliott residence halls, consists of approximately 75 students and focuses on academic and service-related projects designed to develop strong leaders.

In 2016, 230 students applied to the LLC — the most in the 31 years Scholar Leaders has existed and double the number of last year’s 120 applicants.

Courtney Wallace, the program coordinator of the Wilks Leadership Institute, which houses the Scholar Leader LLC, attributes the rise in application numbers to the recruiting efforts of current Scholar Leaders.

“I feel that this year, [the recruitment committee,] along with the rest of the LLC, used word of mouth to their advantage, along with traditional marketing efforts,” Wallace said. “Because the community spans numerous organizations and Scholar Leaders tend to hold leadership positions within those organizations, it spread like wildfire.”

Wallace also noted that the current first-year class is very large, which could have contributed to the influx in applicants. According to a May 2015 report by Miami University’s News and Communications, the class of 2019 is the largest in the school’s history with 4,002 new students.

Shannon Dolley, a current Scholar Leader, said the program attracts all different types of students.

“One of the other things it’s based on is diversity, so there’s a lot of great representation in different parts on campus. It’s an opportunity for people to really get the word out,” Dolley said.

Wallace looks forward to the contributions that will come from such a large amount of applicants.

“We love the high rate of applicants, and hope it continues because we can continue to select high-quality and diverse candidates to make the community a rich experience since there is no right way to be a leader,” Wallace said. “We don’t want all Scholar Leaders to be the same, but to add more leadership skills and ideas to their own philosophy and style of leadership whilst learning from other leaders on campus.”

Recently accepted Scholar Leader Mikaela Haney cited similar reasons for applying to the program.

“I wanted to be a Scholar Leader because I wanted to be surrounded by a community of different leaders and also a diverse community that would help me discover who I am as a leader and as a student,” Haney said. “I think there were a lot of applicants this year because not only are we the best dorms on campus as far as location, and it also comes with a scholarship for room and board. Also, you would be surrounded by so many amazing leaders.”

Wallace hopes that the strong interest in the Scholar Leader LLC will continue in the future.

“Our hope is to get the Scholar Leader name out there, since the group wants to positively impact the Miami and Oxford communities,” Wallace said. “Because of the uniqueness of the LLC and the majority wanting to keep the number as close to 77, we want to honor that smaller community experience — it’s the sweet spot of what’s been a successful community on campus along with the self-governing piece.”

Dolley feels the program allows students to meet new people and expand in their leadership abilities, an experience she values.

“There is a really big community centered around leadership and I think that’s really great because sometimes when you think about leadership, you think about just yourself, isolated, and how your leadership is going to play out in a certain organization,” Dolley said. “In an organization like Scholar Leaders, however, you’re with all these other people who are really committed and dedicated to making a difference around them and your own leadership style is really affected by the other people around you.”