During the fall semester, Geoff Bailey, executive director of UofL’s REACH program, along with his colleagues Julie Hohmann, Mark Woolwine and Rex Mann, presented seven concurrent sessions at the annual National College Learning Center Association Conference in Niagara Falls, New York.
Now, the team is ready to take on a much bigger role. UofL will host the next NCLCA conference in early October at the Hyatt Regency downtown.
The university’s hosting opportunity came about last year, when Bailey was elected vice president of the NCLCA, an organization that includes professionals across the higher education spectrum – from those working in tutoring centers to faculty.
REACH’s goals are to improve students’ academic performance, help students transition to college life and support student retention. For NCLCA, a main objective (and one of the reason’s Bailey became involved) is to ensure professionals in student success fields have access to the best information to achieve those goals.
“We are looking to find key metrics to establish benchmarks, assessing retention and recruitment efforts, learning best practices on how to grow revenue. It is extensive,” Bailey said. “But it’s important for us to be involved to remain cutting edge and to make a dynamic impact on a quickly-changing population.”
Bailey believes UofL is ahead of many other institutions in terms of emphasis and priority the school places on academic success services.
“UofL recognizes the types of study skills we teach and the pedagogies we teach. We receive learning center support through tutoring that makes a huge difference to our students regardless of their academic levels,” he said. “We’re not just talking about students who are failing; we also have honors students use us regularly. We are well positioned because what we have here sets the bar for ourselves and other institutions.”
UofL’s REACH team, for example, has established training curriculum that allows faculty and staff to have a better understanding of where a college student is intellectually. The team also has all three College Reading and Learning Association certifications that are available.
“Having all of this is important for us to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward and serving out students in the best way we can,” Bailey said. “We serve – and want to serve – as a model for other institutions and provide guidance to those struggling to develop their own curriculum.”
Being a benchmark school for academic services isn’t REACH’s main objective, however. Helping UofL’s students is, and the unit has done just that by offering structured study sessions and tutoring for undergraduate courses, peer mentoring for more than 3,500 students, seminars on student success topics, intervention courses in mathematics and reading and more.
According to Bailey, REACH’s service hours grew 24.3% last year – for 81,005 total service hours during the 2017-18 academic year. That growth is on top of the 24.5% increase the year prior.
“This growth is attributable to students recognizing the inherent value in these services – recognizing that they’re getting something out of this free service,” Bailey said. “We’re going to help a student no matter where they’re coming from – if they’re struggling or they’re acing. We simply want to ensure we’re helping them where they’re at and help them achieve whatever academic goal they have.”
In addition to sharing best practices, hosting the NCLCA conference will allow the team to showcase REACH’s new space in the Belknap Academic Building. Bailey said the timing is ripe: The NCLCA recently published a book called “Learning Centers of the 21st Center.”
“We are living that right now. If you look around this building with the embedded technologies we have here – the glass dry erase boards, the activing learning spaces, the success of our emporium math model. These professionals are going to get to see this first hand and I think we’ll be a showcase piece for other institutions across the country,” Bailey said. “The facility we have now matches the caliber of services we provide.”
The opportunity to host this conference will also allow UofL to build stronger allegiances with other institutions, which is a significant benefit.
“This will help us build on our services based on what we learn from them. In this field, we all have the same goals and that is to make sure our students are successful,” Bailey said.
REACH will host the NCLCA conference at the Hyatt Regency downtown in October, and nearly 500 attendees are expected. The theme for this event is Racing Toward Student Success – a play on the city’s horse racing heritage.