WOOSTER, Ohio — Students at The College of Wooster are flocking to Andrews and Gault Libraries this fall, not only to access the traditional volumes of books, periodicals, and other reference materials, but also to take advantage of innovative ways to think, learn, and interact. This recent buzz is the result of several initiatives that have revitalized portions of the 50-year old facility in the past 10 months.
In January, the Collaborative Research Environment (CoRE) opened on the first floor of Andrews Library. Highlighted by the “Cube,” a multipurpose meeting/seminar room equipped with the latest digital technology, the CoRE features collaborative work space, presentation practice rooms, and a “tech bar” café with movable wall installations, LCD screens, and mobile white boards.
In August, APEX (Advising, Planning, Experiential Learning) debuted on the lower level of Gault Library, bringing together six critical operations to one central location. The redesigned area combines Career Planning and Academic Advising with the Learning Center, and the Registrar, and it connects the Entrepreneurship Program with the new Experiential Learning Program, which includes internships and entrepreneurial opportunities. The objective is to help students develop a clearer sense of purpose as they choose their courses, prepare for their senior project (Independent Study), and plan their post-graduate careers.
“What we have built,” says President Grant Cornwell, “is an educationally and
organizationally distinctive way to integrate how we go about advising our students, encouraging them to be intentional about their planning, while also providing a host of well-coordinated opportunities for experiential learning, for putting their ideas at work in the world, through internships, research opportunities, entrepreneurship opportunities, and other ways of learning by doing.”
John Ramsay, professor of mathematics and the newly appointed Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, sees APEX as a central knowledge base for students. “They can come here (to APEX) and receive personal, professional, and academic guidance,” he says. “They can also gather information and get advice about experiential learning opportunities. We want them to become more intentional in their planning, and we believe that APEX can be a great resource for them.”
Already, foot traffic has increased significantly in this once-secluded portion of the library as students discover the many options now available in what has become a bright and vibrant place to gather.
Three new directors have joined the APEX operation — Ryan Ozar, Associate Director for Internships, Peter Abramo, Director for Entrepreneurship, and Kayon Hall, Associate Director for Employer and Graduate School Relations. All three are excited to ramp up their efforts to engage students and direct them to meaningful experiential learning opportunities.
“This is a place where students can come and bounce ideas around,” says Ozar. “I can already see how they are benefiting from being able to go from one office to the other. We believe that internship opportunities will play a key role in the process.”
Likewise, entrepreneurial endeavors are certain to appeal to students. “In APEX, I am able to interact with Career Planning and Experiential Learning,” says Abramo. “This provides me with direct access to students considering a career involving the creation of a new venture. It also enables collaboration with Experiential Learning to identify student internship or project opportunities. I hope to work with many students from all disciplines because I believe that entrepreneurship is not restricted to business, but rather is a way of thinking and acting that can benefit any student.”
Other directors who have relocated to APEX are equally enthused. “What we really like is the serendipity that is taking place,” says Lisa Kastor, Director of Career Planning. “We’re all referring students to one another, and the proximity is a factor in that. Also, more people are using our space, which gives us greater visibility and helps us to share the mission of APEX.”
For Pam Rose, Director of the Learning Center, location is a major asset. “It’s easier for returning students as well as new students to find us,” says Rose. “It has also enhanced the integration of services. When you’re talking to a student in the moment, you can easily take that student to another office and make a connection right away.”
Cathy McConnell, Associate Director for Advising and Experiential Learning, echoed those sentiments. “Compared to being located in Lilly House (at the northern tip of campus), there's been a lot more opportunity for easy collaboration with colleagues and informal conversations with students as they make use of the other services,” she says. “Proximity has bred easier and quicker referrals to services throughout APEX.”
Alison Schmidt, Associate Dean for Academic Advising, likes the intentionality in planning and the emphasis on collaboration. “I now know more about the other operations and the resources they have available, and I can share that information with students,” she says. “It is convenient for us to meet regularly as well as impromptu in this location.”
One of the more exciting elements of APEX is the establishment of a $100,000 fund to support students who find internship opportunities. “We are really looking forward to being able to help students as they search for experiential learning opportunities,” says Ramsay. “We hope to begin funding these types of internships next summer.”
Perhaps the most talked-about feature of APEX is a large “Writing Wall” covered with a special grade of paint that enables it to function as a whiteboard. The wall serves primarily as a communication center where announcements can be posted, seminar notes can be listed, and any number of other messages can be shared.
In short, APEX has already become an inviting, engaging, and productive place. Besides, where else on campus can students write on the wall and get away with it?
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