Academic Center for Excellence: Helping Students Succeed

Rachel Whatley, Staff WriterACE logo

   It may surprise you to know that in its early stages the Academic Center for Success did not look like much. Students know it today as the overarching program home to student services like L.I.FE. and tutoring, but in 1997, there were just two professors working with mainly eight struggling students. It took the work of Dr. Gwen Hackler to apply for and receive a grant for ACE in 2001, which has been awarded three times. Instead of the modest number of 8, 160 students are involved in L.I.F.E., and 90 students benefit from the disability services.

   The Academic Center for Excellence is home to Disability Services, L.I.F.E, Writing and Tutoring Services, the testing center and Academic Services.

   There is something for everyone in ACE, whether it be tutoring support or academic counseling. Dr. Loral Henck, who has been the director of ACE since 2000, said, “[The program] builds community; it helps [struggling students] know that they’re not the only one out there.” There is an active community in ACE, especially in the L.I.F.E. mentoring program.

   Eligible students can apply and be accepted into L.I.F.E., which stands for leadership, integrity, friendship and education. Its former name was SSS – student support services. To be eligible, students have to be enrolled full-time and meet two of three criteria: being a first-generation student, certain financial status or have a disability. L.I.F.E. offers services like counseling, student support and even a student mentor program. Jill Funk, who is L.I.F.E.’S advising specialist, can meet with students to give them a pre-advising meeting so they can better prepare for an actual meeting with their advisor. Overall, this grant-funded program helps students face and overcome their academic and personal struggles.

   Who would not want to get a better grade on their next paper? The writing and tutoring center offers paper reviews to all students. For those who need help in a particular class, students can receive free tutoring sessions through TutorTrac.

   The testing center, which was remodeled and moved four or five years ago, is home to standardized testing. It serves not only SNU students but high school students as well, especially for standardized tests like the ACT, SAT or CLEP. For students with disabilities or those who need additional help, the testing center is a quiet, distraction-free zone.

   Students with physical or learning disabilities can meet with Tabitha Pope and receive further help in testing, like alternative formats or extended time. The disability services also provides any number of other accommodations.

   In the department of academic services, students can find assistance through academic counseling, and undeclared majors receive guidance in which direction to go. In general, academic services helps students who are not fully academically prepared. There are also courses for things like academic strategies and skills, critical thinking and reading strategies. It provides personal support but also helps within the broad scheme of academics.

   ACE is “proactive in helping students,” said Dr. Dennis Williams, dean of the College of Teaching and Learning. If a professor notices a student considerably struggling, they will notify ACE, who will contact the student. ACE wants nothing but for students to succeed.

   “It is extremely fulfilling watching these students graduate,” said Loral Henck.

   ACE is located in the third floor of the library. Students who are struggling in any area can go to the front desk of ACE, and Stacie Veitch can steer them in the right direction.