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SLC History

The University of Michigan's Science Learning Center (SLC) was created in 1989 as a space to provide support to the growing number of students enrolling in introductory biology and chemistry classes. Located on the first floor of the Chemistry building, the SLC initially offered a space for graduate student instructors (GSIs) to provide academic support to undergraduates during office hours as well as computers for students to use for class assignments and lab simulations. 

In 1992, a part-time director and a small cadre of students working at the front desk formed the first SLC staff. Claire Sandler was hired as the first full-time SLC Director in 1997. The following year, in consultation with Chemistry Professor Brian Coppola, the SLC piloted its Study Group Program with 45 groups across 10 courses. The following semester, the program grew to 65 groups but with only enough student volunteers to facilitate half that many. Within a year, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) Dean's Office began providing funding to pay study group facilitators hourly for their preparation and facilitation work, allowing the program to employ enough students to staff every group. 

The SLC began offering a series of workshops called the Science Success Series in 2003.  The workshops addressed study skills as well as provided information about research and study abroad opportunities, student panels discussing different STEM majors, and graduate and professional school opportunities in other STEM fields. The Science Success Series continues to this day, offering additional resources on developing a growth mindset and grit, research-based learning strategies, and tips for applying to medical school. 

From 2006-2009, the SLC also sponsored a two and half day national conference for STEM faculty and staff. The conference offered approximately 50 concurrent sessions to 150 attendees, covering a diverse range of STEM education topics, and featuring keynote speakers that included Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and founder of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program and Shirley Malcom, Director of Education and Human Resources at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

The SLC opened its Satellite Location in the Undergraduate Science Building in Fall 2017. This modern space with moveable furniture, team rooms, and computers provided a location for additional study space, GSI office hours, and study groups. The space also included a moveable dividing wall to enable the hosting of small workshops and training sessions in the front half while the back half of the space remained open to students for studying, computing, and study groups. 

By 2008, the SLC had experienced tremendous growth with five full time-staff members, including a Director, Assistant Director, Computer Consultant, and two Administrative Assistants. The number of study groups had ballooned from 127 to 457 per year, while the number of facilitators increased to 202. The program was now supporting 6,238 students per year across 18 courses. 

The SLC added appointment-based and drop-in tutoring to its academic support offerings as well as a sixth full-time staff member to coordinate the program in 2013. While appointment-based tutoring initially supported only students in the Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP), it gradually added eligibility to students in eleven other university programs.  

By 2019-2020, the SLC's academic programs had grown to their largest in the Center's history. The Study Group Program employed 309 student facilitators who led 3,120 study groups for 7,738 study group members. The SLC hired a seventh full-time staff member to assist the Assistant Director and administrative assistant to manage the enormous program. Meanwhile, the Tutoring Program now employed 60 tutors supporting 877 students annually.  

As the SLC enters its third decade, the Center has committed to enhancing its support of STEM students, particularly for those from underrepresented identities. The SLC staff has developed online student staff training modules around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The SLC is also working with Detroit-based artist and former SLC student staff member Doug Jones to develop inclusive art that welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to the Center. The SLC has further found opportunities to expand its online academic support programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing virtual study groups, tutoring, and workshops throughout the 2020-21 academic year. As we look ahead, Fall 2021 promises to be a transition period back to more in-person services with new opportunities for innovation and student engagement.

- Adapted from Claire Sandler's History of the Science Learning Center