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Marietta College Academic Resource Center receives recognition

Amanda Haney-Cech, director of the Academic Resource Center at Marietta College, speaks with student Cleveland Wilder. (Photo Provided)

MARIETTA — The Marietta College Academic Resource Center has received the Frank L. Christ Outstanding Learning Center Award for its success in providing a supportive academic space for students to reinforce what they learn in the classroom.

Each year, a two-year institution and a four-year institution are chosen for the award.

The Christ Award is presented on behalf of the National College Learning Center Association, an organization recognizing institutions with learning centers setting the bar for excellence. The award is designed to give national recognition to a school whose learning center exemplifies the high standards the association sets.

“It was amazing to receive notice that we were the winners of the award. To be recognized for the hard work done by the cemter team, often behind the scenes, is an incredible validation of the importance of our role,” said Amanda L. Haney-Cech, director of the center. “Our staff work diligently to provide the highest quality of academic assistance to our campus community using Best/Promising Practices for Learning Support Centers in Higher Education compiled by Frank L. Christ.”

The center opened in 1999 and offers peer tutoring, writing center sessions, accommodations for students with disabilities, academic probation recovery activities, academic coaching, a summer bridge program for academically at-risk students, workshops for students and employees, monitored study sessions, a resource library of tools to build skills and space for studying and learning.

“I am so proud of our Academic Resource Center staff and congratulate them on this well-deserved accomplishment,” said Janet Bland, provost and dean of the faculty. “We, at Marietta College, are very familiar with the hard work, enthusiasm and dedication our ARC staff brings to campus every day in support of our students, but it’s really nice to see Amanda and her team get such recognition on a national level.”

The center has excelled at utilizing data to develop proactive programming to intervene with students who present risk factors and an Academic Probation Recovery program “step-down” unit to serve students recently removed from probationary status and those close to the minimum GPA requirement.

“In the ARC, we are so passionate about and dedicated to student success, and we put a lot of thought, time and energy into ensuring that students have the tools they need to succeed,” Claire Crane, assistant director of tutoring services, said. “To receive this recognition affirms that our efforts to give our students exemplary academic assistance are on target.”

The center provides more than a dozen services that assist Marietta students in achieving success in the classroom, including academic coaching, disability services, monitored study tables and tutoring. There are five full-time employees and three part-time employees who make up the talented and dynamic team. Donna Fenton is an academic coach and retention specialist who is part of the team.

“I was delighted to hear the ARC won a national award from the prestigious NCLCA,” she said. “It showcases how collaboration between students, peer leaders and professional staff can accomplish academic goals and momentum toward college success and life-long learning.”

The other team members are: Kristin English, disability coordinator; Missy Gandor, administrative coordinator; Steve Rader, international writing specialist; Todd Comer, academic coach; Sara Jacobs, academic coach; and Jeff Walker, academic coach.

The center also employs about 50 students each year as lab assistants or tutors. On average, 425 students have utilized the ARC’s services every academic year over the past five years, including Elijah Balek of Vermillion, Ohio.

“(The ARC) gave me the opportunity to get work done in a safe and quiet place, as well as help others with their work and create opportunities for others to complete exams,” said Balek, who is majoring in Sport Management. “It also allowed me to get to know some outstanding people on the Marietta College staff.”

Laura Pullins, Long Bottom, Ohio, improved her study skills and she graduated in May with a bachelor’s of arts in special education/elementary dual prep.

“When going to college, students may have difficulties in certain areas of their studies. For me, I was grateful for the ARC because I was able to find what was difficult for me and someone was always there to help me get through it,” she said. “My difficulty within my studies was time management. Claire (Crane) would give me a snapshot of my semester and I was able to go through and fill it out. Most of all, if you feel like you just need somewhere to go where it’s quiet, then the ARC is the perfect place for that.”

Since August 2020, peer consultants have conducted 719 one-on-one tutoring sessions; and despite shifting to online tutoring, one-on-one numbers remained consistent with pre-pandemic semesters.

The center also assists students on academic probation, many of whom need help with study skills or note-taking. According to Haney-Cech, the students who were successful this past semester and removed from their probationary status had attended an average of 13 meetings, seven monitored study sessions and two tutoring sessions. The group average grade point average went from 1.342 to 2.556.

PioPREP (Prepare, Read, Engage, Persist), a summer bridge program for academically at-risk students, served 92 students during the past academic year. The retention rate of the program has been strong since the program started in 2016, and this past fall, 79 percent (27 of 34) returned for the spring semester. Another example of the success of this program can be seen in the first three years. The students who participated in the summer session were retained at a higher rate than all students in two of the three years.

The use of technology increased to enhance how the center engages students from recruitment to graduation. Two important examples are the use of Beacon/Campus Labs and Moodle. Beacon/Campus Labs is a retention software that provides the ARC team with academic alerts and also tracks student engagement for meetings, study tables and event attendance. Moodle is a learning management system that creates shared learning spaces online.

Another initiative everyone in the center believes was an important addition was the food pantry helping students. In 2019, 36 students were served through the pantry and the number is expected to rise.

The application for the Christ Award process was rigorous but worth the effort, Haney-Cech said.

“It was rewarding as it revealed that we met the markers to submit for such a distinguished honor,” Haney-Cech said. “Receiving a national award of this magnitude is a phenomenal recognition for Marietta College and the Academic Resource Center. I am tremendously proud of our ARC team and look forward to continued excellence in our service to our students, staff and faculty. Thank you to everyone who supports the work that we do.”

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