UAlbany to Host Grand Opening of 'Learning Commons' Tutoring Center
By Bethany Bump
ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 24, 2023) — The University at Albany will host a grand opening and ribbon cutting today of the Learning Commons, a new center on the first floor of the University Library that serves as a hub for tutoring, mentoring and academic support services.
The event will begin at 2 p.m. with tours of the space, in LI-36, followed by remarks at 2:30 p.m. from President Havidán Rodríguez, Provost Carol Kim, Associate Vice Provost for the Learning Commons Rabi Musah, and Assembly Higher Education Chair Patricia Fahy.
Established to expand and coordinate campus-wide tutoring and supplemental instruction, the Learning Commons serves as a “one-stop shop” for students seeking academic support and was designed to provide a venue for holistic tutoring and mentoring support, collaboration, socialization and studying.
The center provides tailored tutoring options to students, as well as group and online tutoring services, and supplemental instruction for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. It also helps students navigate and access resources available to them through their academic departments, schools and colleges.
“We are very intentional and data-driven in our approach to learning about our student population, and we are even more dedicated to getting to know them and serve them on a personal level,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “The Learning Commons is a true triumph of both these approaches. It is one of many innovative and evidence-based practices we have adopted to really support our students and foster excellence throughout their academic journeys. We are meeting our students right where they are to give them exactly what they need to succeed.”
The Learning Commons is responsible for the coordination of UAlbany’s undergraduate academic tutoring enterprise, which includes:
- Peer tutoring in a variety of subjects: Peer tutors help engage students with their course material and develop study skills critical for academic success. Students can schedule up to three appointments per week, with any combination of in-person and Zoom sessions.
- Supplemental instruction for science majors: Trained peers who have already taken and performed well in challenging science courses provide highly tailored and structured assistance to students enrolled in first- and second-year biology, chemistry and physics courses.
- Support for tutoring in academic departments: Many UAlbany academic departments, schools and colleges offer tutoring specifically tailored for students enrolled in their courses. The Learning Commons helps students find and access these resources.
- Online tutoring anytime, anywhere: Current undergraduate students have free access to NetTutor, an online tutoring service available 24/7. Students can connect with a live tutor via chat using NetTutor’s online tutoring center or get feedback on a writing assignment using their online writing center.
“Through the Learning Commons we are able to reach all of our students,” said Provost Carol Kim. “Whether they are struggling academically or whether they are excelling, they can all find the place they need or ways to contribute — as a peer mentor, as a science major looking for specialized support or as a student seeking a study buddy to connect with.”
The space is the result of years of planning by UAlbany’s Academic Innovation and Student Success office, led by Dean of Undergraduate Education JoAnne Malatesta, as well as other units across campus, to create a coordinated, comprehensive and transformative model for student success.
UAlbany’s success in this realm helped it secure a $2.5 million Driving Change grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute last fall as part of an initiative to create a more inclusive STEM learning environment for all students. The grant allowed the University to establish a new EXCELlence in STEM program, which will be housed in the Learning Commons and provide intensive supplemental instruction, online preparatory courses and dedicated Student Success Teams for all incoming STEM majors.
The program is based on an existing support network at UAlbany shown to benefit STEM majors, particularly those from historically underrepresented backgrounds, and is intended to ensure undergraduate students from all backgrounds graduate from college well-prepared to pursue advanced degrees and assume leadership roles in STEM fields.
It is led by principal investigator and Chemistry Professor Rabi Musah, who also serves as associate vice provost of the Learning Commons.
“The institution of the Learning Commons represents many things, among which is the culmination of efforts over several years to develop an academic support model that provides cohesive, tailored mechanisms that are specifically engineered to ensure the success of all of our students,” said Musah. “It serves as a mechanism by which UAlbany remains perpetually ‘student ready’; a one-stop-shop for academic support; and a catalyst for ensuring a culture that supports the personal, academic and social dimensions of their campus experience.”
Assembly Higher Education Chair Patricia Fahy showed her support for the initiative at Tuesday's event.
“This new Learning Commons demonstrates UAlbany’s commitment to ensuring all its students have an equitable opportunity to succeed,” she said. “This is central to SUNY’s founding mission that it should be an engine for all students and all New Yorkers to change their lives through higher education.”
Interested in learning more about the Learning Commons?