Learning Center History and Overview
The Learning Center at Brenau University was established in 1983 when a faculty proposal to create a support program for students with learning disabilities was voted upon and passed. Brenau was already serving students with diagnosed learning disabilities and the need to further assist these students was recognized. Ms. Karen Pfunder, a professor of special education, became the first Learning Center Director. The support program was designed to help current students learn compensatory skills, as well as to assist future students beginning their educational program. From this point forward, Brenau has offered one of the most highly structured and supportive programs for students with learning disabilities which has attracted students from many states. Students who utilize the Learning Center’s services tend to earn higher grades, report feeling more confident in their ability to achieve academic success and overcome barriers to success.
From the very beginning, Brenau recruited college-able students who needed a special program to help them succeed. The Learning Center’s tutoring program, combined with Brenau’s personalized approach to teaching and small class sizes, proved to be an excellent combination for students who have learning disabilities. Although the program was initially established for students with learning disabilities, it quickly became a program serving students with a variety of accessibility needs and disabilities (physical, mental, emotional and learning disabilities).
The Learning Center evolved over the next thirty years under the direction of Dr. Vince Yamilkoski who served a dual role as the Director of the Learning Center and Professor of Education. Dr. Yamilkoski even helped to launch the Writing Center (housed inside the university’s Trustee Library) in addition to continually looking for ways to improve the Learning Center’s supportive services. The Learning Center’s tutoring program was made available to international students by Dr. Yamilkoski as Brenau welcomed increasing numbers of international students.
Dr. Yamilkoski retired in 2017, after mentoring licensed professional counselor Jennifer Wilson Loggins as she was chosen as the new Director. Professor Loggins teaches Abnormal Psychology and Human Growth & Development for the School of Psychology. With a background in psychological evaluation testing and report writing, teaching, disability advocacy, professional tutoring and counseling, Professor Loggins holistically supports students as the Disability Service Provider (DSP) for the university. She reviews documentation of disability and determines reasonable accommodations, provides academic coaching, collaborates with faculty on policy and procedures related to ADA/ADAAA/Section 504 and acts as an advocate for students as they become confident in their self-advocacy skills.
At the heart of the Learning Center program is quality professional tutoring at no cost to the student on a weekly basis by appointment. Students receive regularly scheduled tutoring sessions twice per week in selected courses along with academic coaching sessions. Our tutors and academic coaches have always been the vital center of the program. Not only have they helped teach the content, they often became mentors to the students. The key is for students to come each week for standing appointments with their tutors and not just on a “drop in” basis when they are struggling. Students can also meet with an academic coach once per week on a regularly scheduled basis to improve study skills, time management and organization. While tutoring is available to all enrolled students, students who have documented disabilities or international student status are scheduled first before all other students who desire tutoring. A wait list may exist from time to time as demand has increased.
Along with the service of providing tutoring, the Learning Center provides a quiet place in which students may take course tests in lieu of the classroom environment. The Learning Center Office Manager schedules all testing, academic coaching and tutoring appointments. Our Office Manager and Test Proctors provide individual and small group testing appointments for students with disabilities. Virtual test proctoring via Zoom is available for students who are unable to come to the Learning Center’s physical location. Technology is used to increase accessibility to all of our services. Students at the regional campuses or who are enrolled in the online program can receive tutoring and test proctoring virtually online via Zoom and with the use of a webcam.
The Learning Center serves as the point of contact for all disability service (Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA) related matters for Brenau University. As awareness and diagnosis of learning disabilities increases and Brenau welcomes an increasing number of international students, it is expected that the demand for the services provided by the Learning Center will continue to increase.