Learning Center: A Path To Your Dreams
Learning is not attained by chance; it must be
sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.
It's a safe
bet that Ms. Adams, First Lady to one American President and mother
of another, would have been delighted by BC's Learning Center. The
Center's intelligent, sophisticated and caring tutors embody the
love and thirst for learning that Adams instilled in her six children.
It is a mecca for students seeking a bit of help or a lot of help
in both writing and academic subjects across the Cores. Tutoring
is provided by BC students exclusively, and the Learning Center
is so accomplished that it has a national reputation for excellence.
Over the years, it has shown thousands of students that the knowledge
they need to move toward their dreams is, indeed, attainable right
here on campus.
At the Learning
Center you can hear the low hum of constant activity as soon as
you enter. The bright and well-planned space can accommodate about
two hundred students at a time and often does. The facility has
about forty computers and five printers. There are about 125 tutors,
mostly undergraduate, who are evenly divided into three categories:
writing, Core courses and specific classes. These classes include
chemistry, calculus and pre-calculus, physics, CIS, biology, Spanish,
French, accounting, economics and psychology. Centers at other colleges
often tutor only math and writing. But the real heart of the Center
and the source of its success, according to dedicated Director Myra
Kogen, is the fact that "we have a very special group of students
at this college who take responsibility for their learning."
Moreover, says Kogen, "One of the essential elements of tutor
training is the emphasis on respect for students and colleagues.
Tutors are taught the importance of listening and showing students
how to think for themselves. There is genuine interaction, not just
a lecture." Hard working, enthusiastic and tireless, Kogen
is herself a major factor in the Center's success, but too modest
to say so.
Center has been a cherished campus asset from the start. In 1975
a Writing Center was established by Kenneth Bruffee, professor of
English. This successful Center garnered praise in national college
journals and inspired BC to expand the scope of its tutoring. The
current Learning Center is in large part the result of the work
of President Christoph Kimmich, its chief champion. As BC Provost,
Kimmich developed a plan for a Learning Center along with Mary Oestereicher,
then Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies. In 1994 Kimmich secured
funding for the establishment of the Learning Center from the U.S
Department of Education's Title III program. Kimmich directly oversaw
the reconstruction of the space and the development of the project.
Under Kimmich's leadership, Kogen brought together various campus
tutoring operationsCore, AMP, Hughes and the Writing Centerto
create what she accurately calls a "seamless tutoring laboratory."
Center has flourished, says Kogen, because it "has always enjoyed
a lot of freedom and support, as well as considerable give and take
between the tutors and faculty." The watchful eye of President
Kimmich is matched by that of Ellen Belton, Dean of Undergraduate
Studies, who oversees the Center. Belton is a strong influence on
the Center's positive, productive culture and works very closely
do the Learning Center's tutors have so many new and repeat "customers"?
There are three essential reasons. First, tutors are themselves
excellent students. All tutors must be recommended by a faculty
member and have an A in the Core content they will tutor. For the
writing branch of the Center, candidates must either have an A in
English 1/English 2 and/or Core 1, or be recommended by a faculty
member. The tutors receive continuous feedback from Learning Center
supervisors and are carefully observed at the end of each semester.
In addition, twenty students are invited each semester to register
for a special English course, at the end of which several are asked
to join the tutoring staff.
two is the thorough and ongoing tutor training. Tutors observe classes
weekly and meet with faculty, to deepen their understanding of course
content and classroom dynamics. Training and staff development continue
throughout the tenure of all tutors and include sessions that continually
focus on ways to improve learning. At one recent session, for example,
the subject was "Common Problems Encountered During Tutoring
Sessions." The result was a helpful handout for students: important
tips for making the most of tutoring.
is the genuine enthusiasm and sincerity of the tutors. They are
appreciative of the opportunities BC provides and "want to
tutor here because they want to contribute to the school; to give
back to the college community," explains Kogen.
particularly interesting about the Learning Center is that while
many students seek tutoring to avoid failing a class, just as many
top students come to the Center to turn a B into an A. Also notable
is the fact that the tutors cheerfully claim to learn as much as
they teach. Brooklyn College is proud to say that many of our tutors
have gone on to graduate and medical programs at Ivy League schools,
where the good work of the Learning Center is greatly admired.
The Center is
itself always learning new ways to meet the needs of students. In
2000, Kathleen Gover, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, began
the "Gateway Project" to help students achieve passing
grades in first-level courses in a chosen major. Gateway subjects
include accounting, biology, chemistry, economics, math and psychology.
Coming next is online tutoring, the creation of Kogen and CIS Professor
Paul Whitlock. This new program will provide clear, frequently sought
explanations of course content in an FAQ-like format. Professor
Whitlock has been involved in the new program every step of the
way and collaborates very closely with the Learning Center, CIS
Professor Danny Kopec, and a group of CIS majors who serve as webmasters
and designers. The Learning Center is thus off to a great start
in the 21st century and will doubtless continue to enhance the lives
of many students.
Sir Winston Churchill
said, "Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I do
not always like being taught." Imagine if he had had the resources
of our Learning Center!