UC Berkeley’s Student Learning Center has expanded the size and scope of current programs as well as initiated new courses in research training after being awarded the first Berkeley Collegium Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education in June.
Granted by the Berkeley Collegium, a campus advisory group comprising distinguished teaching faculty, the award provided the SLC with $30,000 in funds to use for enhancing the undergraduate academic experience on campus.
Collegium member and mathematics professor Craig Evans, who is also on the SLC’s Faculty Advisory Board, brought the SLC to the collegium’s attention last spring.
“They (the SLC) are impressive, in my view,” Evans said. “They’re kind of a secret weapon that we have on this campus.”
By the end of the 2013-14 academic year, the collegium informed the SLC that it had been selected from a pool of at least eight campus programs as the winner of the award, according to Serena Chen, faculty director of the collegium.
In the months since it was awarded the funds, the SLC has used the money to further its central motive since its foundation in 1973: assisting emerging populations on campus.
SLC International Student Program supervisor Khuyen Nguyen said international students are the primary emerging population, adding that their presence on campus has increased from 3 to 13 percent of the undergraduate student body in the last three years.
Mike Leong, co-supervisor of the SLC’s Mathematics and Statistics Program, decided to use a portion of the award money to increase the number of adjunct courses offered at the SLC for Statistics 134, a prerequisite for the major that he said is the third most popular among international students.
Nguyen reiterated, however, that it is because of and not despite of the focus on issues pertaining to these emerging populations — the international student body, in this case — that the SLC has been able to reach out to a larger student audience by obtaining funding from sources such as the collegium.
“Over 60 percent of the students who are enrolled in our economics programs that we have expanded with this funding are domestic students,” she said. Nguyen added that a similar proportion of domestic students are enrolled in the adjunct courses in the SLC’s mathematics program and Language Exchange Program, which have also received funding from the award.
The collegium now plans to recognize an undergraduate-focused program annually through its undergraduate education award.
As for the SLC, director Cara Stanley aims for the SLC to keep refining and learning from its work with undergraduates.
“We want to continue to use peer pedagogy as a means of building relationships and authentic connections,” she said. “That’s really what college is about.”