The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has awarded funding to three 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.
Learning Together at Danville Correctional Center
Rebecca Ginsburg (Education Justice Project), Karle Flanagan (statistics), Ted Sanders (English)
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.
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.
Merit Mentoring and Professional Network
Elise McCarren (chemistry), Lily Arias (integrative biology), Jennifer McNeilly (mathematics), Alejandra Stenger (molecular and cellular biology)
To support the success and retention of underrepresented, first-generation, and rural LAS STEM majors, the LAS Merit Programs will continue a pilot project launched last year. This effort includes implementing a second eight-week fall course and a semester-long spring course that include both a majors-based mentoring network and professional development for LAS Merit students and sponsorship of paid experiential learning for LAS Merit students, including research, teaching, and other laboratory experiences.