This fall Penrose Library announced the grand opening of The Learning Commons at Penrose –– a collaboration between the library, Academic Resource Center (ARC), Centers for Writing (COWS) and the Student Engagement Center (SEC) that is focused on bringing more academic help to students when and where they need it most. The new service provides drop-in hours with tutors from all four departments, Sunday through Wednesday from 9-11 p.m.
The new Learning Commons aims to provide an additional resource for students during evening hours when the programs’ main offices are not open or available. While each department involved still retains the bulk of their services in their respective offices, the Learning Commons aims to provide short-notice, convenient assistance to students when they need it.
“Overall, the partnering offices want to provide students with a low-stress way to get a wide range of questions answered that they may not be able to get answered during our regular business hours,” said Associate Dean for Student Engagement Noah Leavitt. “We specifically want to accomplish this by providing a team of trained peer tutors who can be helpful and supportive on the many different topics that all of our offices deal with.”
Dalia Corkrum, director of Penrose Library, says this project has been a dream of hers for quite some time. She, as well as administrators from the other three departments involved, are excited to see how well the program works and to assess how it can be further improved.
“It’s something we’ve never done before,” said Corkrum. “It’s really an experiment to see how well it’s going to be received, how well we’re going to be able to meet student needs.”
In a further attempt to provide effective academic help to students, the Learning Commons will soon feature a large, flatscreen monitor that will enable tutors to work with their clients in a more interactive manner. The screen –– which will hook up to student and tutor laptops –– will allow for interactive, visual work, and it was purchased as a collaboration between the four departments involved.
Corkrum stresses the importance of understanding the evolving academic needs of students at Whitman and sees the Learning Commons as anoth
er step towards making academic assistance as accessible as possible.
“Students are working differently now than they did 10, 20 years ago,” said Corkrum. “Everything can happen 24 hours a day.”
Mary Claire Gegen, program coordinator for the Academic Resource Center, further addressed that this desire provide convenient, effective academic assistance to students.
“We wanted to make sure it was at a time that as many students could attend as possible –– that’s why it’s from 9:00-11:00,” said Gegen. “As far as the actual framework and location of the space –– we wanted to give some ownership to our respective tutors and representatives and allow them to make those decisions as students came in, in an organic process.”
As students begin to explore the services provided at the Learning Commons, administrators from Penrose, ARC, SEC and COWS are ready to further evolve and tailor the program to meet student need.
“The bottom line is we want students to use the resources that we have,” said Gegan. “Each part of the Learning Commons is a vital department at Whitman College. Our goal is for as many students as possible to recognize that, utilize it, and benefit from it.”