Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2012

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Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond
'This center will change the landscape of learning at Connecticut College and be a model for other liberal arts colleges.' — President Lee Higdon. Photo by Bob Handelman

A new academic resource center in the heart of Shain Library will bring new dimensions to student learning

by Patricia M. Carey


A new Academic Resource Center will open this year, bringing together a broad array of staff and services with a single goal: to make sure all students reach their highest academic potential.

“Connecticut College is already known for personalized attention to each student''s learning,” President Lee Higdon says. “The center will support our students at a whole new level. Our program will be state of the art among liberal arts colleges.”

Professional staff in the center will help incorporate best practices for student learning into freshman orientation, pre-major advising, fellowship applications, funded internships and other signature experiences of the College. They will also collaborate on programming with the staff of the Joy Shechtman Mankoff Center for Teaching & Learning, which focuses on faculty development and innovative approaches to teaching.

A national search for the director is underway, and programming will begin in temporary offices as soon as the director is on board. Three more staff will be added later in the year: an additional learning professional, a program coordinator and a director of a new quantitative skills program. Part-time professional staff and trained peer tutors will augment the staffing.

A 2,500-square-foot space on the third floor of Shain Library will be renovated into seminar rooms, staff offices, and large and small meeting rooms for tutoring and workshops. That area is now primarily used for books, which will be moved to space-saving compact shelving in the basement and elsewhere on the third floor. Some of the new spaces, including computing workstations, will be available for student use in the evenings and on weekends, when study space is often at a premium.

“This is another example of how libraries are evolving to meet the changing needs of students and faculty,” says W. Lee Hisle, librarian of the College and vice president for information services. “Resources that used to be spread across campus will be centralized, new resources will be added, and all of this will complement the research and technology support provided by library staff.”

RAISING THE BAR

The center's programs and resources will give every student the resources and support to excel in an increasingly rigorous academic environment. “We are challenging students to set, meet and then exceed higher learning goals,” Higdon says.

Under the leadership of Dean of the Faculty Roger Brooks, faculty members are reviewing and rethinking every aspect of the academic program, from general education to major requirements to facilitation of interdisciplinary collaboration. Last year, they completed an initiative to define specific learning outcomes for each academic major; they are now developing new ways to measure and assess students'' learning. Many of these efforts have grown out of the College''s participation since 2006 in the landmark Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, a groundbreaking long-term study of liberal arts education and outcomes.

“We have a deeper understanding than ever of what factors lead to the highest and best learning,” Brooks says. “The Wabash study reaffirms the centrality of faculty-student relationships, which will be further supported by the work of the center.”

The new center has been funded and endowed by an anonymous $11 million gift, part of the $200 million Campaign for Connecticut College. Generous gifts such as these, Higdon emphasizes, are essential to the future of
the College.

“Connecticut College is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation,” Higdon says. “In this age of high costs and rising competition, however, we can never rest on our record. We are constantly evaluating, innovating and investing in this extraordinary educational experience.”



PROGRAMMING IN THE NEW CENTER WILL INCLUDE:

• Workshops to help students maximize their engagement with faculty and the curriculum

• Faculty education programs, in collaboration with the Joy Shechtman Mankoff Center for Teaching and Learning

• High-level skill development in math and computational sciences

• Peer-to-peer learning with a focus on development of subject-specific skills and strategies

• Coaching to help students at all levels expand the range and fluency of their writing

• Workshops on time management, reading strategies, note taking, test preparation and organization

• Programs and services to address special learning challenges, including learning disabilities

• Ongoing program assessment and incorporation of emerging best practices for effective student learning


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