Division institutes select academy for incoming freshmen

Renovation (Oliver Yu)

A. Renee Hamilton

If a library is “the beacon” of a college, perhaps the Liberal Arts and Learning Resources Division at Saddleback College is the lighthouse from which it shines.

Nestled in Room 218 on the second floor of the library is the division office, where Dean Kevin O’Connor has spent the last 10 years of his career striving to enhance a program that encompasses a wide array of offerings, including the Learning Assistance Program, study abroad courses, and the college student newspaper, the Lariat, and the college student magazine, Orange Appeal.

New to the division this year is the Freshman Academy. This academy provides a unique opportunity for Saddleback freshmen that matriculate into English 340 for reading placement, English 300 or 340 for English placement, and math 351, O’Connor said. Screening for the program will take place during Early Bird matriculation testing, and students who qualify will be notified by mail so they can apply.

Cheryl Altman, reading instructor, heads the program, which offers a full-year of classes specifically chosen to meet core requirements, academic and career counseling, early registration, and faculty mentoring.

“In a nutshell it’s an opportunity for 25 students enrolled in the Early Bird program to be a part of the Freshman Academy where faculty will select a set of classes for them,” O’Connor said. “We hope it will encourage more students to take recommended courses sooner than later.”

With an ambition to ensure the academic success of new students, O’Connor believes that the academy will aid students who may not write as proficiently as they are able to obtain the necessary writing skills to succeed in English courses, and other courses as well.

Last spring, O’Connor’s division launched the Learning Assistance Program’s online tutorial support program, which gives online video tutorials for students enrolled in online classes. O’Connor anticipates enlarging the program in the fall semester.

“We envision presently, this will make online tutorial a choice whether they are enrolled in online courses or not,” O’Connor said.

Also encompassed in the division are various study-abroad courses. From Oxford, England, to Salamanca, Spain, students have the opportunity to experience various cultures while taking classes.

“They’re wonderful opportunities to continue to pursue their courses while simultaneously experiencing other people, other cultures, and different perspectives,” O’Connor said.

In a technologically driven society the library shines brightly, especially with the upcoming transition of the library’s databases to electronic online versions.

“Students anywhere, any time, any day, will be able to access the library information online,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor’s eyes twinkle with excitement when the topic of the $15 million library renovation project is mentioned. He has been looking forward to this project since his first year at Saddleback in 1999.

“Its transformation embraces everything this college stands for,” O’Connor said.

The college’s library renovation project was put on hold in 2006 but is now close to coming to fruition.

By fall the library will be moving its location temporarily to the portables in the Villages on lower campus, in order to allow a full remodel.

“Everything will be new,” O’Connor said. “This whole building will have a new purpose and appearance.”

The exterior will remain the same, although ideas are in the works with lighting concepts to illuminate the building at night causing it to literally be seen as a beacon. From the drab layout and outdated fixtures, to the freestanding concrete staircase, the library’s antiquated features will soon be replaced.

In an attempt to create a progression conducive to learning, the new layout of the library will be comprised of a three-step-system:

•    A new third floor with 16 hi-tech classrooms

•    A second floor complete with a comprehensive support center

•    A first floor where students can sift through the stacks and view student art  

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