A strategic partnership at the R.B. House Undergraduate Library is preparing to transform support for undergraduate learning.
Story by Michele Lynn
Preparing students to succeed both in class and beyond is at the heart of the mission for both the University Libraries and Carolina’s Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling (CSSAC). That is why leaders from the two organizations recently joined forces to explore a broader partnership—and the relocation of CSSAC to the Robert B. House Undergraduate Library.
Their shared vision is to create a vibrant epicenter for student learning at the very heart of campus.
“This is an opportunity to build something new with partners who are committed to things that we are excited to be doing: working collaboratively and inclusively; centering student excellence and student learning; and providing diverse services to a diverse student body,” says Elaine Westbrooks, vice provost for University Libraries and University librarian.
CSSAC, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, consists of the Learning Center, Peer Mentoring, Summer Bridge, Carolina Mxle Scholars, the Writing Center and programs for transfer and first-generation college students. More than 50% of students who graduated in 2019 used CSSAC services at some point during their undergraduate career.
“Once the Writing Center and Learning Center become part of the Undergraduate Library space, we expect the participation to grow,” says Westbrooks. “We can’t wait!”
Having CSSAC and the UL in the same space will lead to more effective collaborations. “Our coaches sometimes use online chat with the UL but it would be so much better for students if we could all talk together in person,” says Kim Abels, director of the Writing Center and Learning Center.
“When students are working on a research paper in a discipline new to them, they need to figure out how to research that subject area, something that librarians help students with,” says Abels. “At the same time, students have to determine their topic, frame arguments and understand what counts as evidence, which are all things we talk about at the Writing Center. Having coaches and librarians in the same space would allow a fuller experience for students.”
The new program will build upon existing projects such as the Long Night Against Procrastination. The event gives undergraduates an opportunity to work alongside one another at key moments during the semester, while having access to snacks, librarians and CSSAC coaches.
Aja Crayton ’19, appreciated her experience with both the UL and the Writing Center and Learning Center. “Students like to feel valued and that those helping them are really invested in their success,” says Crayton, who used CSSAC services multiple times each week. “Everybody was willing to help me; it was more than just a job to them.”
Crayton says that the message she received was, “You have what you need to succeed,” and adds, “I will continue to keep that in my brain going forward.”
The new space will be open and bright to allow an intuitive flow for students and facilitate learning and creativity. “We want the space to have a living room feel but also be a hub for instruction, where students get the tools to navigate the complex digital world that they live in,” says Westbrooks.
“I’m excited to help create this inclusive, student-centered, welcoming place that students will own and where they will feel like they belong,” adds Westbrooks. “It’s a place where students will say, ‘I can be my best self here and can get the support I need to be excellent – not only as a student, but so that I can be successful as a person.’”