Federal grant to help UAFS launch writing center, accelerated literacy program

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 479 views 

A $2.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith provide academic support to students through a writing center and accelerated literacy program.

The five-year grant, part of the competitive Title III Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP), also will allow UAFS to support faculty development in academic literacy teaching strategies. The SIP grant is the largest to be awarded to UAFS in recent years, and its impact will be felt throughout the campus, Dr. Terisa Riley, UAFS chancellor, said in a media release on the grant.

“Literacy and writing are the foundation upon which a successful collegiate career is built,” Riley said. “This funding allows us to put programs into place that will benefit all students, regardless of their major. I applaud the hard work of our faculty and all those who made this award possible.”

The grant will allow for an accelerated literacy program, through a Summer Bridge Program. The accelerated literacy program is designed to help students complete college-level composition courses faster, said Cammie Sublette, professor and head of the English department. Sublette co-wrote the grant with Monica Luebke, associate professor of English.

“This is particularly important for students who currently have to take a developmental course in English before they can take Comp I. These students, as of Summer II 2020, will be eligible for our English Summer Bridge Program, which is free to qualifying students. If they complete the program successfully, they will have completed not just the course designed to prepare them for Comp I, they will also have completed Comp I, thus allowing them to enroll in Comp II in their first fall semester in college. They will finish their degrees earlier this way, saving them time and money and speeding their entrance to the workforce,” Sublette said.

The accelerated program will replace the university’s developmental English stand-alone course and is supported by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, which encourages Arkansas colleges and universities to replace developmental education with corequisite education, Sublette added.

The award also will allow the university to renovate a space on campus to house a dedicated writing center. The center will be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to help students on campus and online, the release said. The center will eventually have 57 new PCs and 30 new laptops as well a printer and a Blackboard Transact kiosk.

“We will also eventually host an online platform for the Writing Center, making it accessible 24/7 to students, whether they’re on campus or not,” Sublette said.

Though the Academic Success Center currently provides writing tutors to students, there are not enough nor are the hours optimal for all students, she said, noting the grant will allow the university to develop a “robust Writing Center” as well as other academic support for literacy and writing.

“It will be transformative in terms of what we provide for our students,” Sublette said. “Having a centralized writing center will give us the capacity to offer students more practice, more tutoring, more exposure to the rigors of academic writing. In turn they’ll be able to move through their courses more rapidly, graduate on time, and with the writing and literacy they need to be successful in today’s world.”

Renovation for the writing center, which is expected to be open and available for students in fall 2020, will begin during the winter break.