The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has awarded funding to six teams of faculty and staff to advance innovative ideas that aim to improve student experiences, from incorporating one-on-one mentorship with teaching to offering Illinois undergrads and incarcerated individuals the opportunity to learn together.
The college issued a call for LAS Student Success Innovation proposals earlier this year. Funding was granted for ideas that will lead to innovative and inclusive curricula and/or pedagogy, take advantage of new technologies and lessons from the pandemic to enhance ways of learning, create and support diverse student experiences, increase access and opportunities for historically underserved students, and address the recruitment and retention of first-generation students and historically underrepresented ethnic and racial minority students. Projects were eligible for up to $100,000 in funding for one year.
“Our college is committed to educating and empowering today’s diverse student body for success,” said Venetria K. Patton, Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. “I’m proud of LAS faculty and staff for developing these innovative and resourceful projects to support our students’ needs.”
Project descriptions—edited from the proposals—are below.
The Best of Both Worlds: Personalized Mentorship in Online, Liberal Arts Courses
Valeria Bonatti, David Schrag, Caitlin Marie Alvarez (LAS Global Studies)
The LAS Global Studies program plans to offer courses that combine the best of both worlds: the flexibility and structure of online learning with the tailored mentorship that is the hallmark of a liberal arts education. By turning classrooms into a space of mentorship, the team aims to improve outreach to first-generation, minority, and non-traditional students.
Learning Together at Danville Correctional Center
Undergraduate students frequently express an interest in connecting their learning with “the real world.” This project answers that need by providing Illinois undergrads with the opportunity to participate in one of two semester-long courses offered at Danville Correctional Center in Spring 2024. For first-generation and underrepresented minority individuals who currently are incarcerated, this project also will reinforce a pathway to the university.
In addition to these new projects, several projects that received funding last year were renewed:
- Merit Mentoring and Professional Network, Elise McCarren (chemistry), Lily Arias (integrative biology), Jennifer McNeilly (mathematics), Alejandra Stenger (molecular and cellular biology): The LAS Merit Programs will continue offering second eight-week fall course and a semester-long spring course that include both a majors-based mentoring network and professional development and sponsorship of paid experiential learning, including research, teaching, and other laboratory experiences.
- Mathematics and Statistics Student Support Center, Vadim Zharnitsky (mathematics), April Hoffmeister (mathematics), Jeff Douglas (statistics): This walk-in tutoring center supports students in introductory mathematics and statistics courses.
- Reimaging the General Chemistry Experience: Enhancing Learning Outcomes and Fostering Belonging for Under-represented Students in STEM and Pre-Health Majors, Tina Huang (chemistry), Jennifer Cromley (educational psychology): A pilot course in General Chemistry (CHEM 102) implements best practices in chemistry education and educational psychology to improve learning outcomes for minoritized students.
- ESL eText 2.0, Susan Faivre (linguistics), Jin Kim Pennell (linguistics), John Kotnarowski (linguistics), Randall Sadler (linguistics): To deliver a more accessible, inclusive, and engaging learning experience, this team is redesigning and improving an undergraduate e‐textbook, Academic Writing for English Language Learner.