This fall, Oklahoma Wesleyan University announced the official opening of the Academic Center for Excellence, known as ACE around campus.
After a smaller version of ACE was launched in 2018 and the impact on student success became clear, ACE was given the go-ahead to hire a director and begin the construction of a headquarters on the second floor of Drake Library – complete with a large study space, a room for testing, and the director’s office.
Allison Weeter became the first Director of ACE in July 2019 and immediately began preparing for incoming students. Weeter comes to OKWU with a BA in English Education, from MidAmerica Nazarene University, and two MAs in English, from The University of Tulsa and Durham University (UK). She is also a certified CELTA (Cambridge English Language Teaching for Adults) instructor and is certified in mild/moderate disabilities by the state of Oklahoma. Her experience is broad, having spent time teaching in public schools and at private and public institutions of higher education, both in the United States and abroad.
“I am pretty sure that I prayed this job into existence,” Weeter said. “I had such an impactful time as a student myself at a Christian university that I have always been keen to help make a similar experience for other students, because of how important this time in a person’s life is on their future.”
Weeter is passionate about the extra academic help that ACE offers. “After my previous experience teaching English at a Christian university, I was struck with how many students needed additional support that wasn’t available to them because of a lack of resources,” she said. “So I began to get more education to help the students who often have the hardest time adjusting to the academic rigor of university: those for whom English wasn’t their first language and those who needed different learning strategies than those that are common in contemporary classrooms. This job allows me to combine all of my passions to help students who can be successful when given the right support at the right time.”
Early on, student reaction to the new department has been enthusiastic. “[It] looks awesome,” said Alexis Morrison, graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Morrison is not alone in her assessment. “Every student who comes in is impressed with how nice a space it is,” Weeter said.
Indeed, ACE is already popular with students around campus. In fact, there are certain times of the day when there aren’t enough seats. Students come in for the writing labs – Composition I and II, which are staffed by English professors – and to get tutoring in any number of subjects directly from the professors in those departments. They also receive the accountability they may need as they adjust to the self-discipline required for success at the university level.
Currently open every day, ACE endeavors to be available for all students to utilize it. It is staffed by tutors 4 evenings a week, as well as Sunday afternoon – and is also open the other evenings and on Saturday for study space, in order to be more accessible to student athletes, AGS students, and online students whose hours are not those of a traditional college student. Soon, the Brightspace link will allow all students to book appointments in advance, including those AGS or online students who want a Zoom tutorial rather than a face-to-face one.
“This is only the beginning. We’re all really excited about what this place will be able to do as it puts down roots,” said Dr. Dalene Fisher, Dean of Arts and Sciences. “We’re happy that we can offer this needed service to OKWU students. As we partner with them, we want them to know that we are here to support their efforts and are genuinely invested in their success. Allison Weeter is the best person for the job, and we are thrilled to have her lead the team.”