The Colgate Scene
March 2006

A message from Lynn Waldman, director, Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research
A home for academic support

Lynn Waldman has been director of academic support and disability services since 1994. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

As educators, we are often faced by a challenge when our students need help. For many students, simply asking questions poses a threat. In ways both direct and subtle, throughout their school experiences many students have learned to suppress their questions. Those who asked too many questions in high school may have been perceived as "a dummy," brown-noser, or just plain annoying -- and not just by their peers. Some students report feeling as if their teachers did not welcome questions. As a consequence, they don't get the practice they need with using this powerful learning tool. So when students don't know what to ask, perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised.

Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research services
  • Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUS)
    • Summer Institute
    • Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP)
  • Developmental academic advising and counseling
  • Individualized instruction and consultation concerning learning strategies, time management, and organization
  • Accommodations and services for students, staff, and faculty with disabilities
  • Writing Center satellite office
  • Peer and alumni mentoring programs
  • Tutoring assistance
  • Community student program
  • Lifelong Learners adviser
  • Learning tables (discussion groups)
  • Learning resource room
  • Study spaces, lounge, and conference room
A view of help-seeking as threatening is a reality that may seem incompatible with the image we have of ourselves as an institution -- one that can perhaps best be characterized by something one of my colleagues told a group of transfer students: "In order to fall through the cracks at Colgate, you would have to throw yourself into them."

And now, Colgate has taken a major stride aimed at wiping out the stigma of help-seeking -- and making it easier for all students to get what they need -- with the opening of the Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research last fall.

Colgate's academic services are now assembled under one roof, on the site of the former French/Italian House. This cohesion allows us to operate on the principle that high academic standards and strong academic support for students can and should co-exist. We have been able to encourage more students to seek help, while still supporting the students who have traditionally been served by longstanding assistance programs like the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Office of Academic Support and Disability Services. The center also includes a writing center satellite office, a small informal library containing self-help study resources, a lounge, and conference room, as well as individual work/study spaces.

In some cases, simple things make a big difference. I take great satisfaction in helping students to develop strategies that give them a greater sense of control over their lives; for example, creating a colorful full-semester calendar for long-term planning. It is one thing to tell students that success is all about time management; it's quite another to accompany them in their struggle to change their habits and attitudes about time and productivity.

Supportive people can be powerful "bridges" for students in developing the skill of help-seeking. I can't say enough about the people I work with at the center. Coordinator Renée Chapin is a true ambassador for the work we are doing, greeting each visitor as if he or she is the most important person on earth. She takes them on a tour of the facilities, and invites them to use the center as a place to study. Jaime Nolan, director of the Office of Undergraduate Studies, is one of the most compassionate and creative people I have ever worked with. Aurelius Henderson, associate director of OUS, and Doreen Hatcher, assistant director of OUS, have terrific energy and vitality and are so much fun to work with.

Being in such a wonderful space that is very accessible on campus doesn't hurt, either. I admit to being a little awestruck by the beauty of our new Colgate home. And while the space is great, the collegiality is phenomenal.

This semester, the center teamed up with the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics to launch Access to Excellence in the Sciences, a program designed to increase success and persistence in "gateway" science courses. New endeavors to support student learning in this area include enhanced sections of CHEM 101/102 and MATH 111 to incorporate more practice with group problem solving, and workshops for tutors in chemistry and the math clinic. I find a true spirit of willingness to try new things, and I am looking forward to further collaboration with the faculty.

When it comes to caring about learning, we want that message to infuse everything we do. So, at our retreat at the beginning of the spring semester, we made a commitment to learn Spanish. Stay tuned for our next learning adventure.

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