How Drexel's New Academic Resource Center (ARC) Will Be a Hub for Student Success
The idea of creating a unified space on Drexel University's campus to house and connect most academic learning centers and services had been under discussion before the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, things changed and had to be put on hold — and the need for that kind of unified approach became even more crucial once the University reopened. At the same time, Drexel's new 10-year strategic plan — which was implemented in January 2020 and also adjusted accordingly — had designated student retention as a University priority.
The new Academic Resource Center (ARC) opened last term to benefit both of those initiatives. Located in the Korman Center (15 S. 33rd St. in the Korman Family Quad on the University City Campus), the ARC will be a welcoming and inclusive place where students can find support among their peers and easily connect with peer educators, professional staff, academic coaches and faculty who can help guide them through their academic journey.
“We're hoping that the ARC will help students become comfortable asking for assistance and seeking out resources because they are confident that there are people at the ARC to listen and help,” said Rebecca Weidensaul, PhD, who is leading the ARC. “We want it to be easier for students to have a clear understanding of the resources that are available. For example, once the Center for Learning and Academic Success Services, or CLASS, is in residence, students will save time accessing adjacent tutoring services that may be part of their academic coaching plan developed by the professional and peer academic coaches and learning specialists at CLASS.”
As assistant vice president of Student Life in Enrollment Management and Student Success, Weidensaul already led several of the services that moved to the ARC, and previously oversaw the unification of academic and support services for student-athletes as a leader in Drexel Athletics. She has been a longtime advocate for a learning commons model on campus for Drexel's decentralized services that run parallel to each other and intersect to support students.
Now, the first phase of that proposal is ongoing. The Korman Center was chosen as the ARC's location, in part because it housed five tutoring support centers from the College of Arts and Sciences (CoAS). With the help of Drexel's Business Services and Planning, Design & Construction, plans were finalized to add additional existing programs to the building, which was already equipped with tables and chairs, vending machines, study rooms and other amenities benefitting a learning community. The ARC will be completed and finalized before the fall for an official opening with the 2023–2024 academic year.
The ARC is the physical embodiment of the new strategic alignment for enhancing and supporting student success and retention, and other practices are being implemented. Several academic services are changing their collaborative approach to work together for and with students. Additionally, a new Student Success Champion professional development series for academic advisers and other student support professionals was initiated last term. Through the program, participants received resources and information related to creating a coordination of care for students who are working through any number of difficult situations.
“In most of life’s journeys, all of us will inevitably hit some challenges or roadblocks to reaching our ultimate destination, and this is true with the college experience as well,” said Senior Vice President for Student Success Subir Sahu, PhD. “Our goal at Drexel is to help students find success in every part of their journey and offer our support and help if and when challenges arise. The ARC, under the leadership of Dr. Weidensaul and her team, will seek to help and support Drexel students on their academic journeys, with the goal of helping them gain the skills and knowledge necessary to find success and overcome any barriers or challenges in the classroom.”
The ARC will also expand upon pre-existing services with the partnership of faculty members and academic advisers, including the early warning system and Drexel's Gateway Course initiative that provides academic monitoring in critical courses at the start of a first- and second-year student's curriculum. A first-year assessment survey filled out by students by the end of their first week on campus also provides insight into possible barriers to student success. Through the ARC, those reviews could lead to referrals to academic services as well as customized outreach to Dragons at the start of their academic journey (rather than at the lowest point).
The Korman Center was already home to five academic tutoring centers offered through CoAS. The Drexel Writing Center and the Math Resource Center offer curriculum-wide services, with the Drexel Writing Center also available for the entire Drexel community to request support for a variety of writing needs. The Physics Help! Center, the Biology Resource Center and the Chemistry Resource Center provide tutoring for 100-level (and, for chemistry, 200-level) introductory courses.
“For several years, Korman has been the home of the Drexel Writing Center and CoAS STEM tutoring,” said Scott Warnock, PhD, associate dean of undergraduate education for CoAS, who was the director of the University Writing Program for 10 years. “The ARC is being developed in a smart way. Our tutoring centers are maintaining their identities while being part of this broader effort to create a collective space for academic support for students.
“Students will still recognize these individual centers, but it now seems more likely they will use these resources.”
One of the ARC's first priorities was to build up math support for first-year students, which resulted in a “Tutors in Residence” program at most University City Campus residential halls beginning in winter 2023.
This term, the Academic Center for Engineers (ACE), which provides support for engineering, business and engineering, or First-Year Exploratory Studies (FYES) STEM students, moved from the garden level of Main Building at 3141 Chestnut St. and opened its doors on the first floor of the Korman Center. ACE is offered by the College of Engineering and trains College of Engineering students as tutors for first and second-year students in select courses, as well as students looking for support for Python and MATLAB.
“We are extremely excited to move the Academic Center for Engineers (ACE) to the vibrant student support hub at the ARC,” said Christopher M. Weyant, PhD, associate dean of undergraduate affairs and teaching professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering. “In addition to being in a more convenient location, we look forward to walking students to other services which will benefit their learning. Every time I walk into the ARC and see students collaborating in the various spaces, I can’t help but feel energized by all the activity.”
By the fall, additional support services will have moved into the ARC. The Center for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS) and the Office of Inter-College Advising provide a variety of services for both undergraduate and graduate students as well as the professional staff members supporting them. Both connect all of those Dragons with other resources and partner programs within the University, some of which are now part of the ARC. CLASS is currently located on the garden level of the Creese Student Center at 3210 Chestnut St., and the Office of Inter-College Advising is on the first floor of Main Building.
The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program to connect and support the academic and professional development of underrepresented minority students in STEM disciplines, will also be relocated to the Korman Center in the fall. Currently, the LSAMP office is on the garden level of the Creese Student Center.
While additional resources, protocols, programs and other types of student support are being created, incorporated into the ARC and, in some cases, physically moved into the Korman Center, all current offerings will continue to be operational.