In 2008-2009, the faculty members and professionals who provide support for teaching, advising, and research at Grinnell College began to form themselves into a network. The network draws on the aspirations of its members to share expertise and to collaborate in new ways. We named the network “Academic Resource Centers (ARC),” and began to develop a systematic approach to coordinating teaching and learning services across the educational program.
ARC takes a decentralized approach that encourages leadership and initiative among its members to foster innovation in support of the academic program. We note that ARC encompasses members whose excellent cooperative work has recently garnered accolades for the College, including the White House Award to the Grinnell Science Project and the American Library Association/Association of College and Research Libraries Excellence in Academic Libraries award. We believe that the synergies among the ARC participants can enhance “academic wellness” among all Grinnell students, strengthen the College’s efforts in promoting universal design in our learning environment, and support coordinated efforts for at-risk students. Finally, the agility and modular capability of ARC allows its members to promote integration with departmental and campus-wide goals.
ARC meets two to three times per semester to develop an agenda of work taken on by interested individuals. The assignments are typically carried out by subgroups that form for specific tasks. Over the course of two years, ARC developed its name, a shared mission, a common website, a logo, and planned and implemented a schedule of 20 workshops staffed by two or more ARC members for faculty and students for academic year 2010-2011. In addition, ARC has been a major source of leadership for expanding and enhancing the independent peer mentoring programs into a distinctive campus-wide Peer Mentors Program and has participated actively in the Assessment Task Force.
The ARC network fosters innovative initiatives that are tailored to particular programs or projects, which can be delivered on a just-in-time basis for faculty and student clients. The ARC format conserves areas of expertise among members, yet fosters strong interdisciplinary collaborations. These collaborations build collegial relationships across departmental divisions. The relative autonomy of the members fosters shared approaches to problems or projects without any one approach having precedence. This arrangement encourages leadership that is collegial, dispersed, and reciprocal rather than managerial or directive. Further, ARC creates opportunities for cross-training of ARC staff so that we can approach teaching, advising, and research problems holistically. We believe that ARC is a successful experiment and strongly urge its continuation and support.
Over the next two years, we anticipate that ARC will continue to develop along four main lines:
- ARC members will continue to share services and professional practices within the network in order to enhance professional growth, interconnection among programs, and creativity in development of services.
- The members will increase programmatic cohesion offered among their various initiatives and services.
- The members will continue to expand, connect, and consolidate the peer mentoring programs on campus.
- ARC members will share departmental assessments with each other, collaborating where possible, and contribute to academic assessment initiatives campus-wide.
Each of these lines of development is already under way with broad and diverse contributions among ARC members. To facilitate this evolution, we anticipate needing the following resources:
- a consistent level of support across units for professional development, so that ARC members can plan professional development opportunities together, pursue them in an interdisciplinary way, and reach out to other schools for mutual exchange of practice models and information (including visits by ARC members to campuses with interesting models of support for teaching and learning, and visits by other schools to Grinnell);
- ongoing purposeful involvement of the Dean’s office in a spirit that enhances ARC's visibility among faculty and connects it more effectively with campus planning and governance structures;
- administrative support for meetings and collaborative programs and other efforts (ca. 1/3 FTE).