The Learning Center at Brenau University was established in 1983 when a faculty proposal to create a program for students with learning disabilities was voted upon and passed. Brenau was already serving students with diagnosed learning disabilities and the need to assist these students was recognized. Ms. Karen Pfunder, a professor of special education, became the first director. The program was designed to help current students learn compensatory skills as well as to assist future students beginning their educational program in 1984. From this point forward, Brenau offered one of the most highly structured programs for students with learning disabilities and attracted students from many states.
Students with learning disabilities are defined as students with average or above intelligence who express underachievement in specific academic areas. It is thought that specific learning disabilities are caused by deficits in the psychological process involved in learning. From the very beginning, Brenau recruited college-able students who needed a special program to help them succeed. The Learning Center program, combined with Brenau’s personalized approach to teaching, proved to be an excellent combination.
The Learning Center evolved over the next thirty years, but certain characteristics of the program remain consistent. At the heart of the program is the service of providing quality tutoring by professionals. Students have always received regularly scheduled tutoring twice a week in selected courses. These tutors have always been the vital center of the program. Not only have they helped teach the content, they often became mentors to the students. A “specialist” tutor has also been an important part of the program since its inception. Students with learning disabilities have very specific problems in areas such as reading, writing, mathematics, personal management, organization and study skills. Tutors who would remediate and teach these skills became their academic coaches. The specialist normally meets once a week on a regularly scheduled basis.
Along with the service of providing tutoring, the Learning Center and the university professors provide specific accommodations to students with disabilities. In order to qualify for the Learning Center, students must provide documentation of a disability. The Director of the program evaluates the documentation and recommends specific accommodations. Although the program was established for students with learning disabilities, it quickly became a program for students with all recognized disabilities. The most common accommodation has been extended-time testing and monitoring of tests by the Learning Center.
Currently, the Learning Center continues to assist students with disabilities and is essentially the program for disability resources. Although the tutoring is provided only on the main campus, accommodations are given to students on all campus locations, most often by the student’s professors.
The Learning Center’s tutoring program on the main campus is now available to students without disabilities and most recently international students. Assistance to teaching modern study strategies is also available to groups and individuals.