Increased student engagement opportunities following changes to Academic and Learning Services

Story by Anna Schlutt, Reporter
Photos courtesy of Anna Schlutt 

The staff of CORE in a candid shot.The Department of Academic and Learning Services was recently revamped. Following renovations both physical and internal, this office intends to engage a wider student audience.

The department is now known as the Center for Opportunities, Resources, and Excellence (or CORE). Major changes have involved adding the ESL and Global Student Support Services and incorporating a new Peer Coaching Lab.

CORE staff offices are located in the lower level of the Wege Student Center. Staff includes Sara Haviland, Peer Coaching Coordinator and Student Support Services Program Advisor. Some changes have significantly affected the areas she coordinates.

One of these changes has been the introduction of a Peer Coaching Lab, which is open from 6-9 p.m. every Monday through Thursday. This lab is intended as a space for students, typically first years, to interact with more experienced peers.

The lab is overseen by Sara; she hires and trains peer coaches that come from a variety of majors and interests. Two are scheduled for every shift, and no appointment is needed to meet with them.

Assistance from peer coaches is open to anyone, and generally involves advice on time management, study skills and college transition.

Additionally, any student who attends has the opportunity to sign up for a newsletter or a GroupMe chat. Various events and activities are offered through the chat, featuring both academics and entertainment. These include note-taking workshops, volunteer opportunities and board game nights.


Dondreá Brown, Director of CORE and Student Support Services

The name CORE was another vital change in the vision of this department. Among those spearheading the name change was Dondreá Brown, Director of CORE and Student Support Services. According to Dondreá, CORE allows for “ensuring that we represent accurately what we do.”

The title CORE was selected during an annual department staff retreat, and is expected to set the tone for the future of the department.

“We were trying to look for an acronym that students would love, something really catchy,” said Dondreá.

Students had input in choosing the new name. According to Dondreá, CORE was a top pick. This marked a beginning of student engagement with CORE.

“Our goal is to always increase and bring out awareness,” said Dondreá.

Dondreá’s main methods of bringing out awareness are through STAR Day, Saint Stock and word of mouth. According to him, CORE programs are vital to keeping students engaged.

“One thing that leads to low retention or students leaving the college is lack of awareness of student support services,” he added.

The new goal of CORE is to bring about a change in the Aquinas community. This involves making students aware of the department’s variety of services, as well as making use of them.

Included in CORE are the Writing Center, Peer Coaching, Peer Tutoring, Accessibility Services, Student Support Services, and ESL and Global Student Services.

According to Dondreá, “Students that decide to go to college are committing to being lifelong learners.”

Additionally, Dondreá believes that seeking out services demonstrates skill, so it is important for all students to explore their options. It is clear that CORE can be useful for any student, young or old, experienced in the college life or just beginning.

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