For Jay Carter, participating in a residential community was an important part of his freshman year on campus.

“The programs cultivated a community that is genuine,” Carter said of his experience with the program in 2012. “The long-lasting relationships between residents and professors . . . are rich in spirit . . . ”

Faculty members share pizza with PHG students in Avocet HallCarter was part of Project Higher Ground ­– a residential community in Avocet Hall linked to academic coursework and co-curricular activities designed to enhance student learning and personal development.

In its fourth year, Project Higher Ground is made up of student groups based on academic and personal interests such as math, computer science, health, ethnic studies and biology.

Students in each group take a First Year Seminar course that directly ties with an additional course. For example, students may take a seminar on Technology and Society that connects with their section of pre-calculus. Faculty members from both courses work together to make a seamless transition from one class to the next.

Outside of class, peer leaders coordinate activities to integrate students’ coursework with campus and community experiences. This year they look forward to visiting Silicon Valley and attending the United Nations Film Fesitval held in Monterey, as well as social activities such as pizza parties in the Avocet lounge.

The name Project Higher Ground comes from the book, "Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life," in which Pulitzer Prize-winning musician and educator Wynton Marsalis relates the principles of jazz to lessons about life.

About 200 students are participating this year, and have a choice among five First Year Seminar classes: Youth, Power and Protest; Comparative Ethnic Experiences; Eat, Love, Learn; Multicultural Health; and Technology and Society. Professors even hold office hours in the hall.

The university’s Student Life and Academic Affairs divisions, which co-sponsor Project Higher Ground, have seen an increase in student satisfaction and academic success as a result of the program.

“Higher Ground has a huge academic impact,” said Molly Springer, coordinator for Living Learning and Themed Programs at CSUMB. “And the students really feel a connection to the campus and to their peers. That connection is what brings them back” for their sophomore year.