Conn College using $11 million gift for resource center

New London - Connecticut College will create a new resource center to house expanded academic support, writing and quantitative resources, and the office of disability services under one roof. The college received an anonymous $11 million gift, the largest in its history, this summer to fund the center.

The new academic center will help students reach their potential and meet the challenges of an increasingly rigorous curriculum, according to college officials.

College president Leo I. Higdon Jr. said that as it has become more competitive to gain admission to Connecticut College over the past several years, the liberal arts college has raised its expectations for students.

"This is the exact kind of resource center that will assist them, and assist faculty as they work with them, to reach their goals," he said about the college's students. The new resource center is consistent with the institution's emphasis on individualized learning, he said.

When completed, the center will comprise offices and seminar rooms in 2,500 square feet on the third floor of the Charles E. Shain Library, according to the college's press release. In addition to staff from the college's existing Roth Writing Center and Office of Disability Services, the center will include part-time counselors, peer tutors, and four staff positions. The college will implement a new program to build quantitative skills, or those that involve the use of numbers, as more and more majors now require these types of skills, according to Higdon.

In forming the center, Connecticut College joins a number of higher-education institutions with learning resource centers. Tufts University, Duke University, Georgetown University, and the University of Miami all have centers. The University of Bridgeport offers tutoring at its academic resource center, and Yale College has centers for writing, scientific and quantitative reasoning, and language study.

Although Connecticut College will provide students with resources, Higdon said students still have to take the initiative to use the services: "This is about having students take responsibility for their learning."

Higdon also said there is a significant shift from high schools' structured academic programs to the ones facing students in college. Connecticut College wants to provide students with the resources to raise their academic potential and gain confidence in taking programs and courses "outside of their comfort zone," according to Higdon.

Roger Brooks, the college's dean of faculty, said the college launched an academic challenge initiative several years ago to raise the level of critical thinking required in the curriculum. Conversations at the college's teaching and learning center have focused on ensuring assignments serve this purpose, he said, and the college has received feedback from assessments by students that the school is becoming increasingly rigorous.

While he said students are well-prepared from high school, every student "needs a certain kind of support to do their own best."

k.drelich@theday.com

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