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  September 20, 2004

Support Centers Developed To Help With W, Q Courses

Two veteran UConn professors have accepted interim appointments and set up shop at support centers that will help students and faculty understand and navigate some of the new general education requirements that take effect next September.

Thomas Recchio, co-director of freshman English and a UConn professor for 15 years, and Chuck Vinsonhaler, a mathematics professor who, among his laurels, has been named Connecticut Professor of the Year and a UConn Teaching Fellow, have begun the process of developing a writing center and a quantitative studies center, respectively.

The centers will help faculty prepare W and Q course materials, while also helping students who are struggling to understand the material being taught in conjunction with the new requirements.

Both Vinsonhaler and Recchio will draw on graduate students - and some undergraduates - to help tutor students who come to the centers seeking help.

The new centers, housed in the Center for Undergraduate Education, do not replace but augment the many writing and math support centers that already exist in Storrs and at the regional campuses, says Veronica Makowsky, interim vice provost for academic affairs. Besides helping students, she says, the centers are a key resource for faculty who are working to incorporate quantitative and writing requirements into their curricula.

"What's new and different about these centers is their mission to work with faculty in developing their Q and W courses, and in monitoring and assessing those courses," Makowsky says.

She adds that existing math and writing support centers are primarily subject-specific, but the new centers must cover a broad spectrum of courses and departments.

"The Q requirement is very broad-based," Makowsky says. "There are Q courses in chemistry, economics, psychology, communications, and linguistics, for example, beyond the expected courses like math and statistics. And the W requirement is even more broad-based, because there will be a writing component in virtually every major. It is spread across the University."

Recchio and Genevieve Brassard, who will assist him, have already begun talking with the 10 academic departments that Recchio identified as having the highest enrollments. Some of the topics for discussion are how students in freshman English classes are taught to write, how to sequence writing assignments, and how to respond to student papers in a way that will help students better prepare subsequent papers.

Recchio also plans to direct teacher training for graduate assistants, and he will include specialized tutoring for various groups of students and faculty across campus, including those involved in teaching and learning English as a second language.

"We have one year to organize, become visible, and become familiar with as many departments as possible," Recchio says, referring to both the length of his interim appointment and the time before the new general education requirements take effect. "It will take a long time to get it ready, but I'm convinced we can do it and do it well."

Vinsonhaler also has a one-year interim appointment as head of the Q Center. He, too, believes faculty training is an important role of the centers, and he has started meeting with the nine affected departments.

"It is broad-based, and I see the Q Center as an advocate for math literacy," Vinsonhaler says. "One of my roles will be to help convince the whole campus that some level of math literacy is not only good for everybody, but necessary."

National searches have been opened to hire a permanent director for each center.