Working Better Together

Published
  • NWU students faculty and staff at the Fall 2021 Write a Thon
  • NWU students faculty and staff at the Fall 2021 Write a Thon

Nebraska Wesleyan University’s campus is defined by its iconic arches, Old Main, and other housing and academic buildings that have been staples of the NWU experience for decades. Among NWU’s most recognizable buildings is the Cochrane-Woods Library, which has supported students and faculty in academic pursuits and leisure reading for over 50 years. Within the library, students look to the Cooper Foundation Center for Academic Resources for personalized academic support.

In 1996, the Cooper Foundation initially awarded Nebraska Wesleyan a three-year grant to create the Cooper Center. The Foundation wanted to give faculty, staff and students a place on campus to assist them with academic needs with a focus on writing, speaking and study skills.

The Cooper Foundation has continued to support Nebraska Wesleyan’s academic excellence. As the Cooper Center became the go-to hotspot on campus for writing assistance, the Foundation expanded its support to the classroom to help cultivate a culture of academic success across the university.

We work better when we work together.

In 2011, the Foundation awarded Nebraska Wesleyan a grant to continue advancements in writing excellence to every student through the curriculum. The Archway Seminar—a course taken by every NWU student to develop writing and other academic skills—was added to the curriculum, and the grant from the Foundation assisted in preparing professors with the new curriculum implementation. In 2013, after seeing the success of investing in NWU’s curriculum, the Foundation approved another round of funding to expand curriculum innovation. The Cooper Center once again played a vital role as faculty integrated speaking and discourse instructive models into their courses.

 

Visions for the Future

On October 27, 2021, the Cooper Center celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding. The celebration also served as a grand re-opening after the center’s recent move from the third floor of the library to the first. The event brought in students, staff, faculty and special guests, including former and current presidents of the Cooper Foundation, Art Thompson and Victoria Grasso.

Thompson was president of the foundation when it awarded NWU the first funding for the Cooper Center. He remains proud of the original investment, and it’s exciting for him to see how the center has grown. “It was very gratifying to see how essential the Cooper Center is to NWU students,” Grasso reflected after the event. “We are very proud of this (and of course, NWU should take all the credit.)”

The Cooper Center is ready to expand beyond their move in the Cochrane-Woods library. As center director Melissa Hayes notes, “the possibilities are limitless and at the same time unknown.” She is grateful for how the Cooper Foundation has invested in the building blocks of the center and is excited for how the center can continue to promote academic success at Nebraska Wesleyan. In addition to student support through peer tutoring in writing, STEM, social sciences, humanities and the arts, the Cooper Center can offer writing development for faculty and staff.

With the support of her assistant director, Tracy Ensor, Hayes aims to ensure the center’s services reach the entire Nebraska Wesleyan campus community. After the major move to a more visible space in the library, the Cooper Center now turns its attention to wider accessibility and an outreach plan. The staff are also working to expand their tutoring hours to all times of the daythey want to include more students that need their help. Trevor Linn, a peer writing tutor, has noticed the better publicity the center has experienced since the move. He states, “Being on the first floor of the library and right off the front doors makes us really noticeable, and as our data has shown since moving down here, we have had much more foot traffic of people seeing where we are and what we are doing.”

Five Nebraska Wesleyan students working better together in the Cooper Center

 

Hayes has also noticed a difference since the center’s move. She has witnessed someone who’s tutoring in chemistry working in the same space as someone who’s tutoring in writing, which she’d never seen before. The center had always separated writing from other disciplines, but everyone is working together this year―especially to break the stigma students may experience about reaching out for help. As the motto of the center says: we work better when we work together. And the Cooper Center’s prominent location and buzzing collaboration has been a steady symbol for many students that normal life at NWU continues. Hayes, Ensor and their student tutors want the Cooper Center to continue to become more welcoming and casual.

Hayes has taken the opportunity to observe the life of the center this year to help her define what changes might be in store. She’s seen students using the space when she arrives at 8:00 a.m., which fits with the vision she sees as the space being available for students to use whenever the library is open. She wants to offer workshops in the library for the entire Nebraska Wesleyan community, especially faculty and staff. She also wants to expand the online presence of the Cooper Center, complete with academic support resources accessible to those who need them at all hours.

With accessibility as one of their key goals, Hayes hopes no student will have to wait outside for a writing tutor to unlock the doors and that the center can continue to grow as a safe, supportive and inclusive environment for everyone. With its determination to engage students in a collaborative sense of belonging, the Cooper Center for Academic Resources is eager to help lead Nebraska Wesleyan into the future.


Learn more about the Cooper Center's academic support offerings: https://www.nebrwesleyan.edu/inside-nwu/cooper-foundation-center-academic-resources/cooper-center

Story by Camryn Melroy '23