Leading the way in Collaborative Learning
and Student Leadership --- more
Case Statement :: Known for academic excellence, Raritan Valley Community College is experiencing unprecedented growth in its student population. Over the past five years, enrollment has grown 25% in students and 42% in credit hours. This enrollment growth is, in part, due to the recognition that RVCC is a quality academic institution. RVCC received national recognition for its dedication to community service, receiving the 2009 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the only community college in America to win this honor. In the new book, Higher Education? How Colleges are Wasting Our Money, authors Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus report that “Raritan Valley Community College in exurban New Jersey proves that commuter students and part-timers can get an excellent two-year jump start.” RVCC was named one of the top ten schools in the United States by these respected authors, and was the only community college they recognized. RVCC has just been recognized by the American Association for Community Colleges for its commitment and dedication to diversity and equity. Lastly, our local community, through the Somerset County Business Partnership, recognized the College for its leadership by honoring RVCC with its Economic Vitality Award.
With increasing national and local recognition, RVCC is enrolling more full-time recent high school graduates whose families recognize the opportunity to have a high quality collegiate experience, close to home. Our degree programs are highly regarded for their academic rigor. RVCC is recognized locally and nationally for our commitment to community service; however, the College risks losing its competitive advantage as the trends in education focus more on collaborative learning and multi-discipline integration because we are neither designed nor built to support this trend fully at this time. Currently, the College has limited facilities for students to engage in collaborative learning, co-curricular activities and leadership projects. Our faculty members actively engage in service learning and have incorporated significant collaborative expectations into their courses. Substantial evidence supports the positive relationship between academic success and involvement in collaborative learning and co-curricular and leadership activities. Certainly employers at all levels demand that students learn not only the content of the disciplines, but also the teamwork and presentation skills necessary to succeed in a competitive global business environment.
To meet this challenge, it is critical that RVCC build a dedicated center where students can develop the requisite 21st century skills that will enable them to transfer to 4-year colleges and universities, ultimately becoming productive and global citizens. Today’s students require collaborative work spaces to take advantage of the new technologies that are transforming our world. Traditional classroom learning alone no longer adequately prepares students for the complex and multi-disciplinary challenges facing students post graduation. Additionally, to enhance the competitiveness of RVCC graduates as they apply for transfer, the College must provide space for student leadership activities, student performances, honor societies and enhanced service learning.
The Ray Bateman Center for Student Life and Leadership (“the Center”) will embody this paradigm shift in education. The Center also will serve as the entrance for the northwest rear campus. With its beaming tower of light, it will become the focal point of the rear campus. The highly visible tower will be a welcoming site for visitors, employees and students.
About the Center
The Ray Bateman Center for Student Life and Leadership will be home to flexible learning spaces where students can participate in collaborative learning, information sharing and leadership activities. Resulting from the way information is delivered and the new way students and faculty interact, new learning spaces are required to support this new pedagogy. The design of the Center will encourage and support out-of-classroom learning, as “fixed learning spaces” such as libraries and computer labs become “virtual.” The Center will house the Student Government Association and RVCC’s honor societies as well as associated student clubs and student support administration. The building will transform to adapt to a wide range of learning spaces.
The overall design concept reflects a strong commitment to the environment and a determination to be flexible in response to changing student needs. The project will incorporate a number of specific elements to ensure LEED Silver certification – energy efficiency, extensive exterior glass to promote day lighting, predominant use of natural materials from local sources and responsible construction methods.
The first floor will be a flexible office area, highlighted by a two-story atrium that will provide interesting seating areas as well as a vegetation wall to improve the indoor environment. The second floor networking area will contain several different seating areas to support collaborative learning and multiple computer stations to access the College portal, augmenting the fully integrated wireless network environment. The third-floor conference room will rise above the Physical Education Building roofline and will be able to be partitioned into two separate large meeting rooms for concurrent use. This will afford space for lectures and speakers’ series, films and presentations that current facilities cannot accommodate. On the outside of the ground floor a large plaza will be created to better connect the Ray Bateman Center for Student Life and Leadership with the Whitman Science and Physical Education buildings.
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