Getting studious

By Lauren Kelly

The opening of Columbia’s Learning Studio this spring has caused long-time workers to transition into a new space, and officials hope both the new and returning management and staff will adapt to the major changes.

The Learning Studio, housed on the first floor of the 618 Building, 618 S. Michigan Ave., is a new space dedicated to student support at Columbia. It combines the Writing Center, Science and Math Learning Center, Conaway Achievement Project and New Student Placement together under one roof and one management.

Before merging into one location, the Writing Center and Science and Math Learning Center were managed by the English Department and Science and Mathematics Department, respectively.

New Student Placement-previously located on the third floor of the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave.-manages processes like Fluency In Technology testing and Compass testing for new students. The Conaway Achievement Project is also part of the studio, providing resources for first-generation college students, those who come from a limited income background and students with disabilities.

Julie Redmond, assistant vice president of Academic Support, said the change was made for various reasons, but mainly to make the departments more centralized for better communication.

“It was hard for students to find these dispersed offices on campus,” Redmond said. “We wanted to bring them together under one spot. We can now centrally communicate what’s going on. We can centrally evaluate and assess more clearly and respond to student needs.”

The Learning Studio provides many academic resources for students but is not targeted at those seeking remedial help. Redmond said the resources are not just for students who are doing poorly, but for anyone looking to improve their schoolwork.

Student Academic Support is now the ruling body of the center and acts as somewhat of an umbrella over the departments. The Learning Studio’s structure is vastly different from how the department centers were managed before, and workers are still adjusting to the change. It now has more of a more corporate structure, which some student workers may not be used to.

“There’s a lot of figuring out new processes,” said Tanya Harasym, the operations coordinator. “It’s a new space and a whole new way of doing things. It’s exciting because it’s an opportunity to build something brand new, but it’s challenging at the same time.”

For some, the move has caused some stress in the center.

“We’re in a transitional phase,” said junior journalism major Rahel Fissha, a student worker there. “Everyone’s having their growing pains, but I think everyone will find their space. It’s just a matter of time. I guarantee you in another month it’ll be completely smooth.”

Some student workers, however, decided to leave during the transition.

“The people who didn’t want to go through the process of adapting have been able to get jobs in other places,” Harasym said. “Some student workers have sought out other opportunities more relevant to their professional goals.”

Fissha said even some workers who decided to stay have issues with the change.

“Some people are irritated about being forced into a new job,” she said.

Others are creating a new kind of community in the different space.

“At first people were afraid it wouldn’t be a community because the space was so different and we have different departments that weren’t here before,” said Terrell Isselhard, a Writing Center tutor. “But I think it’s becoming the same community again just in a different setting. It’s just adapting.”

Andrea Pearson, a tutor at the Writing Center, said the Writing Center is functioning on a session-by-session basis, but will change once the new system is set up.

“It’s been pretty slow this semester,” said Writing Center tutor Andrea Pearson. “I think it’s because they haven’t gotten a new system together for scheduling students.”

In addition to having to adapt to the new management structure, the workers have adjusted to settling in at the new building. Students have slowly started to come in to the new space, but not in great numbers.

New features in the Learning Studio include more than 50 tutoring stations for student use, more than each department had combined. Each station is equipped with a computer that has Internet access.

The studio’s area is designed in a style similar to many new Columbia spaces. It has curvy orange couches, olive green walls surrounding the tutoring stations and spherical lights hanging from the ceiling.

Redmond said people have praised the aesthetics of the new space. “It’s new; it’s fresh,” she said.

But for some, that freshness translates to a sterile feeling.

“It’s like going from your vintage place to going to Ikea,” Fissha said. “This place has no soul, but that’s because it’s like a baby. It has to grow into itself.”

The process of moving under one management is still in motion.

“It’s so early now, it’s hard to say what it’s going to be like,” Isselhard said. “It’s a whole new thing.”

The structure of the Learning Studio and how it is affecting both workers and students is still unfolding.