As of 1977, St. Francis’s Center for Liberal Learning (then a division which included the departments of History, English, Political Science, Philosophy, and Mathematics) included programs for learning assistance, which comprised two elements. First, the Writing Workshop provided informal, independent tutorial services to students who did not place, via existing placement methods, into English Composition. Secondly, staff offered a limited drop-in writing tutorial service, the use of which was sometimes professor-mandated, but largely student-initiated.
The 1978-9 academic year saw under the deanship of Ray Kieft the beginning of a series of changes that transformed the “Writing Workshop.” That year, the department was enlarged, put under the direct supervision of the dean, and re-christened the Learning Assistance Center. The writing placement test was revamped to include both objective and essay components, and the remediation of the Writing Workshop was revamped and standardized as a course called Writing Basics. Originally conducted on an individual tutorial basis, the course constituted a systematic review of sentence grammar and paragraph structure, culminating in an essay assignment. At the same time, math tutoring services began to undergo expansion, in response to enrollment in the newly launched Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy programs.
In 1982-3 the LAC became an academic department, the Department of Learning Assistance, and its staff held faculty status. By now, it offered several formal sections each of Writing Basics and three developmental math courses (Algebra I and II, and Accelerated Algebra), which were linked to major pre-requisites. Tutoring services were now offered, upon demand, for every course offered by St. Francis College and the College of Health Sciences, as it emerged. Limited tutoring services were also offered for students in the Medical College. The LAC now posted a systematic schedule of hours for both peer and salaried professional tutors, including regular hours for Chemistry and Physics. Later, Anatomy and Physiology and Kinesiology became regular offerings. During this same period, staff began offering a series of learning skills seminars, both as in-class presentations and during evening sessions. Topics included tutorials on research papers, time management, study skills, writing across the curriculum, and mid-term and finals preparation. The professional staff also offered academic counseling to individuals referred by professors, student services, and self.
The tutor training program earned initial certification from the College Reading and Learning Association in 1993. The program has retained its certification since.
In recognition of its service to all three colleges within the University, Learning Assistance Services was moved organizationally in 2002 from the College of Arts and Sciences to the Division of Student Affairs, specifically within Student Support Services.
In January, 2013 the Center was re-named the Student Academic Success Center. One of the main reasons for the name change was to renew and energize the focus on student success, and to better reflect and honor the achievements of the students we serve. Another prime reason for the name change was to send a message that the Center is not just a place for students who encounter academic difficulty, but a place for highly successful students as well.