Learning Differences Club Founder, Michael Butorac and Adviser, Kelly McLaughlin discuss plans for the new club.

Erin Dweik

Staff Writer

A college campus can be a lonely place for students. Associate of Arts and Sciences major, Michael Butorac felt this loneliness. Then, he experienced a tipping point. The isolation pushed him out of his comfort zone. Butorac decided to change this solitary situation. His idea was to bring people together by starting a new student club. The result is LCCC’s Learning Differences Club. 

Butorac is not alone in identifying isolation on a college campus. In 2016, USA Today reported that 61% of college students admitted to feeling lonely in the past year. 

Young and lonely

A 2013 Yale College Council Report on mental health indicated that more than half of Yale undergraduates sought mental health treatment while students there. 

This may explain why “Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever” is “Happiness”.  A New York Times article pointed to the stress that many student’s feel about the pressure to achieve. Also, the American College Health Association’s Spring 2015 assessment found that 67 percent of struggling college students do not seek treatment about their issues. 

Loneliness is not only a problem for college students. Cigna’s 2018 U.S. Loneliness Index described Gen Z, ages 18-22, as the loneliest generation yet. Millennials, ages 23-37, are the second most lonely group. 

Community college has its own loneliness contributors. It is commuter-based so there is less interaction than at dorm-based institutions. Add in learning differences that require extra studying effort and it is easier to miss assignment deadlines and be short on exam study time.  Don’t forget work, family obligations and that a community college student may be struggling with  trauma, money problems, housing insecurity or food issues.  

Help is here

Kelly McLaughlin, 

learning specialist in Accessibility Services, and adjunct faculty in Psychology, is 

familiar with students who don’t fit the traditional academic learning model. She helps students optimize their academic potential through testing flexibility, interpreting, note-taking services and assistive technology needs, including e books. Situations are customized.  

McLaughlin, also the Learning Differences Club advisor, emphasizes that this new club can be, “that shining light, the light in a society that can be dark and alone.” Refer to the accompanying “Helpful Student Resources” list for additional support information.

Students receive support

Students who have learning disabilities are supported through LCCC’s Accessibility Services. Kirsten Wall, staff assistant in the department said, “It’s exciting and humbling to be part of a team that works to help students navigate their barriers in order to pursue their education.”  

Students who have a physical or non-physical issue fill out paperwork to see if they qualify for services. Accommodations apply to a sudden broken ankle that requires a wheelchair and a temporary parking hang-tag.  A long-term anxiety diagnosis that requires testing accommodations or a smart pen to help with note-taking is also available. Faculty are required to follow provisions in the student’s plan.  

Butorac envisions that the new club will welcome all types of learners and help them to “soar, feel happy inside, develop coping skills and talk with friends easier by providing information, speakers, activities and friendship.” 

Butorac’s mission includes changing social norms about learning styles and addressing loneliness. Dr. Jeff Linkenbach, director and chief 

research scientist at The Montana Institute, studies what the new club hopes to achieve. His research supports the goal of being, “…leader(s) seeking to change perceptions, behaviors and outcomes across organizations and communities, as well as by (being) individuals looking to fulfill their own potential.”