In the fall of 2023, a Science Center is set to open in the Academic Commons.
Since its inception in Oct. 2019, the Academic Commons has upheld its commitment to creating an inclusive environment for students to achieve their academic goals. Located in the DiMenna-Nyselius Library, the Academic Commons offers a wide array of services including free tutoring provided by the Math and Writing Centers.
Jay Rozgonyi, the Associate Vice Provost for Pedagogical Innovation and Effectiveness remarked that “the Academic Commons represents the next step in the University’s efforts to accommodate the changing needs of our students” according to Fairfield News.
Mark Ligas, Ph.D., the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Excellence, stated that the Science Center will be “‘purposely’ placed in this location, to be a resource adjacent to the Writing and Math Centers, so all students will have one location for their academic support needs.”
Ligas cited Shelley A. Phelan, Ph.D., the Director of the School of Natural & Behavioral Sciences & Mathematics, as “the champion and ‘driving force’ behind bringing the Science Center from a thought to reality.”
Phelan noted that the construction of the center, which is “still in the process of being developed,” was made possible due to an Inclusive Excellence grant Fairfield University received from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).
Fairfield News reported that “Fairfield University is part of a 14-institution Learning Community Cluster (LCC) that was collectively awarded eight million dollars for this six-year collaborative effort” to “transform the introductory experience for STEM students, with the goal of improving retention and success for all students, especially for students of color and others who have been traditionally excluded from these disciplines.”
“In addition to the individual institutional awards, the entire LCC will share approximately two million dollars to jointly explore, develop and implement new approaches, programs and structures that will reshape the first-year experience for STEM students on all 14 campuses,” the article continued.
The HHMI initiative was made possible due the efforts made by a dedicated faculty team. In addition to Phelan, the team includes Dr. Angela Biselli, Dr. Jillian Smith-Carpenter and Dr. Laura McSweeney. It will utilize “Diversity, Equity Inclusion-focused professional development in STEM” to broaden access to the STEM workforce, aligning with Fairfield’s prioritization of diversity and student success in the sciences.
“We want science students to feel a true sense of belonging in our campus community and we hope that seeing this space in the library will make them feel that they belong here,” Phelan underscored.
The Science Center, whose official name has yet to be announced, will provide individual and group tutoring for the introductory biology, chemistry and physics courses.
“Students of any major taking these science courses are welcome in this space and will benefit from group tutoring and eventually one-on-one tutoring to provide support to help them succeed in these courses,” Phelan explained.
“Faculty teaching these courses will also occasionally hold office hours in this space, so faculty can work with science students outside of our Bannow [Science Center] classrooms and labs.”
Rising sophomore Emma Masselli, a student in Fairfield’s School of Engineering, reflected on the benefits that will result from the completion of the center.
“I think it’s the greatest thing for the new students,” Masselli declared. “I needed a lot of help during my first year, so [the center] will be a great way to help the first years ease their transition with the difficult classes.”
Sophomore Charlotte Savigny echoed Masselli’s enthusiasm with vivacity.
“I was ecstatic,” Savigny exclaimed.
As a tutor in the Math Center, Savigny has witnessed the profound importance of the resources within the Academic Commons.
“I know how rewarding it is to help a student and watch them grow throughout sessions,” Savigny explained. “I believe that the Science Center [will become] a safe space where students could work through problems and come out with enhanced knowledge and strategies to tackle them as help for any science course will be right at their fingertips.”