The Center for Academic Enrichment and Excellence, Housing and Residence Life in the Division of Student Affairs, and the University Academic Advising Center are working together to bridge the gap between the academic and social worlds of Virginia Tech students.

One of their efforts is the Pritchard Academic Resource Center, which opened at the beginning of the fall semester in Pritchard Residence Hall. The center offers tutoring, transition advising, academic success workshops, and other resources to support learning.

“Students often have a segmented experience at the university. A number of students believe learning happens in the classroom, but when they leave the classroom the learning opportunity is over,” said Jamie Penven, associate director of academic initiatives for Housing and Residence Life. “However, students don't stop learning when they leave the classroom. The center provides us the opportunity to align university resources to best support their intellectual engagement.”

There is also a social aspect to this, Penven added, in that this sort of environment allows students to come together for academic purposes but in a way that offers them the chance to interact with peers who are enrolled in similar classes or are at comparable points in their education.

He said he hopes the center will help students see how academics and networking can be of great value to each other.

“Not only do students appreciate the academic support provided, but they also discover an ever-growing social network nurtured through interactions in the center,” Penven said.

Associate Vice President for Academic Support Karen Eley Sanders in the Center for Academic Enrichment and Excellence said she is very proud of her department’s involvement in the center, and that she believes furthering such efforts is important to helping students get the most out of their time at Virginia Tech.

“Creative collaborations between student affairs and academic affairs, such as the Pritchard Academic Resource Center, demonstrate our dedication to students,” she said. “We are committed to student success both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Tutoring is currently available for Elementary Calculus with Trigonometry I (MATH 1015), Calculus with Matrices (MATH 1525), and General Chemistry (CHEM 1035), and all sessions are open to students from across campus. Transition advising and workshops are open only to Pritchard residents at this time.

The center may soon offer tutoring for other classes, as well, and if the center is successful the plan may be expanded to other residence halls.

“My hope is that students will see the residence hall as a learning environment so it would be natural to use this type of center as a resource. I would love to see further partnerships with academic departments where we’re using residence halls as sites for these initiatives,” Penven said. “Academic divisions and student affairs have similar goals when it comes to student learning, so we can accomplish a lot when we come together.”

The Academic Resource Center is part of a larger initiative to integrate living and learning at Virginia Tech, including the new Honors Residential College at East Ambler Johnston. It is the first residential environment of its kind at the university, and is one of several living-learning communities on campus. These communities are part of a collaborative effort to provide students with more engaging intellectual opportunities outside of the classroom.

Virginia Tech will open its second residential college at West Ambler Johnston Hall in fall 2012. It will be open to all students regardless of year, major, or University Honors status.



Written by Jennifer Gibson.

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