A Center for Academic Achievement: How Innovative Collaborations Between Faculty and Learning Center Administrators Built Model, Credit-Bearing, First-Year Courses with Embedded Support for At-Risk Students

By Elaine Bukowiecki, Susan Miskelly, Dorie AuCoin, Heidi Burgiel, Kathryn Evans, Ruth Farrar, Julia Stakhnevich and Steven Viveiros.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Establishing a centralized learning assistance program to systematically address the academic challenges of all students was the first priority of the Academic Achievement Center (AAC) at Bridgewater State College when it was formed in 2001. This new, open, bright, comfortable, and inviting place has truly become the heart of the campus, for it is here that abundant human and material resources are available to support all students. In this learning environment, students can access services in advising, testing, disabilities resources, study, research, writing, communication, mathematics, adaptive technology, tutoring, and English as a second language. Primary responsibility for learning assistance lives with faculty directors who plan how to place meaningful assistance in the path of all students. This article describes the challenges and rewards in establishing and sustaining campus commitment to centralized learning assistance programs as well as some of the exciting opportunities for collaborative innovation on learning assistance that have resulted from such a commitment at Bridgewater State College. An additional discussion focuses on the administrative strategies that support this successful model, and the profound professional opportunities presented to faculty, graduate students, undergraduate student staff, and professional staff through this model. Besides the various services provided at the AAC, systemic delivery of learning assistance is meshed through academic courses for at-risk, first-year students. A description and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data point out the observed trends of student persistence and academic standing for each cohort that has benefitted from this comprehensive model.

Keywords: Learning Environment, Sites of Learning, Learning Assistance, College Experience

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 11, pp.65-78. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 691.378KB).

Dr. Elaine Bukowiecki

Associate Professor, Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, School of Education and Allied Studies, Academic Achievement Center-Director of Study and Research Services, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, USA

Dr. Elaine Bukowiecki is a former elementary school classroom teacher and a language arts coordinator for two separate United States’ school districts. She is currently an associate professor of literacy education at Bridgewater State College, where she teaches advanced courses in the graduate reading programs. Additionally, she is faculty director of study and research services in the Bridgewater State College Academic Achievement Center. Dr. Bukowiecki will be president of the Massachusetts Reading Association, an affiliate of the International Reading Association, during 2009-2010. Dr. Bukowiecki’s research interests are in teacher professional development.

Prof. Susan Miskelly

Associate Professor and Directorof the Communication Lab, Department of Communication Studies, Academic Achievement Center, School of Arts and Science, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, USA

Professor Miskelly teaches public speaking, debate, group communication and rhetoric courses at Bridgewater State College. In addition to teaching, Professor Miskelly is Director of Debate and Competitive Speaking. Her students have won hundreds of trophies in regional and national competitions in the United States. Professor Miskelly proposed what has become the newest area of the Bridgewater State College Academic Achievement Center, the Communication Lab. The Communication Lab provides assistance to students who are preparing or al presentations in courses.

Dorie AuCoin

Assistant Director, Academic Achievement Center, Academic Affairs, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, USA

Mrs. Dorie AuCoin is assistant director at the Academic Achievement Center, Bridgewater State College, where she directs both undergraduate learning services and advising. In order to provide learning services in all academic areas, Mrs. AuCoin recruits, trains, and supervises students who have been identified as skilled in various academic areas. She received both her Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Education in Counseling from Bridgewater State College. Prior to her present position, she worked in affirmative action, minority affairs, and academic support services for higher education.

Dr. Heidi Burgiel

Bridgewater State College, Massachusetts, USA

Dr. Heidi Burgiel has been an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Bridgewater State College since 2003. She received her B.S. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Seattle. At Bridgewater State College, Dr. Burgiel was faculty director of Math Services at the college’s Academic Achievement Center from 2003-2007. She is currently a Technology Fellow, in addition to teaching courses in precalculus and programming/computer algebra. Dr. Burgiel has authored several articles regarding geometry and technology and recently co-authored a book entitled The Symmetries of Things. Dr. Burgiel’s research interests involve educational technology and discrete geometry.

Dr. Kathryn Evans

Bridgewater State College, Massachusetts, USA

Dr. Kathryn Evans directs the writing center and is an assistant professor of English at Bridgewater State College, where she teaches advanced composition, first-year composition, and teacher preparation courses. She has previously published in edited volumes of Language and Learning Across the Disciplines, Teaching English in the Two-Year College, and Academic Exchange Quarterly. Her research interests include models of student competence, especially deficit models, and responding to student writing, including one-on-one conferencing and small-group conferencing. She is currently working on a first-year composition textbook entitled Problems and Possibilities: Reading and Writing Genres in Context.

Dr. Ruth Farrar

Professor, School of Education,, Graduate Programs in Reading, , Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, USA

As she prepared for various levels of work as a reading specialist and teacher educator, Ruth D. Farrar was awarded numerous scholarships and named The 1985-1986 Doctoral Fellow in Reading at Hofstra University, New York. As a K-12 educator, Ruth held a variety of positions, including teacher of English language arts and reading, educational diagnostician and clinician, and K-8 reading coordinator. Her teaching career spanned 25 years during which she taught reading to over 1,000 K-12 students, including at-risk children in institutional placements and socially-marginalized urban adolescents. Subsequently, in her role as teacher educator, Ruth developed and coordinated nationally recognized and accredited graduate literacy programs that since 1993 have produced @500 new reading specialists. She collaborated with faculty in various disciplines on campus to create and institutionalize a nationally acclaimed program of intentionally structured academic support for underprepared freshmen. She has presented at conferences on four continents and has been and continues to be an active member of numerous national and international literacy professional organizations. She is a founding member of intercollegiate teacher-education partnerships with the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and Tafila Technical University in Jordan and has received several grants and awards to support this international fieldwork.

Dr. Julia Stakhnevich

Bridgewater State College, Massachusetts, USA

Julia Stakhnevich was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. She moved to the United States to attend graduate school in 1996. She received her doctorate from The University of Mississippi and since then has been teaching English as a Second Language, Linguistics, and Russian at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. Currently, she is an associate professor in the Department of English and the Director of Second Language Services at the College’s Academic Achievement Center (AAC). At the AAC, Julia works with international and resident second language students; advises peer tutors, consultants and staff; and provides professional development opportunities for faculty. Her research interests include exploration of identity construction in multilingual settings and cross-linguistic influences in English, Russian, and Spanish.

Steven Viveiros

Bridgewater State College, Massachusetts, USA

Steven Viveiros is an Assistant Director for the Academic Achievement Center at Bridgewater State College. With ten years of service as an academic advising professional and administrator, he currently oversees advising programs for first-year, undeclared, transfer and readmitted students. He is also pursuing doctoral studies in the Public Policy Program at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. His research interests include access to and readiness for college education and academic support for underprepared students enrolled in higher education.


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