August 4, 2016

The Learning Commons is for everyone



What’s one of the most popular hangouts on the CIA campus? The Student Commons, for sure. The residence halls, definitely. The Learning Commons…really? Really.

“The Learning Commons is all about helping students move the needle on their own academic progress, getting them from where they are now to where they want to be,” says Dean of Academic Engagement and Administration Carolyn Tragni. “I like to think of it as an academic ‘family room’—a comfortable, relaxed place for learning that supplements what you learn in class.”


The numbers tell the story

Last year, 3,373 students made a total of 51,230 visits to this popular academic hub. And what were the top subjects students received assistance with? Wine Studies held the number one spot, followed by knife skills, College Writing, Culinary Math, and Food Safety.




“We continually evaluate how our services are working,” says Jodi Amato, senior manager of the Learning Strategies Center, which is housed in the Learning Commons. “Our research shows that 92% of students who come in for tutoring walk out comprehending what they learned in their session.”


Free, relaxed, collaborative

So what kind of support can students expect when they visit the Learning Commons? In addition to offering a quiet place to think, there are one-on-one and group learning sessions, professional and peer tutors, and help for international students who speak English as a second language. Students receive assistance with study strategies, test-taking skills, and time management, and practice their hands-on knife skills to the tune of 4,000 hours and 10,000 pounds of potatoes in a single year.

Tutors use tools like Livescribe smartpens, interactive whiteboards, apps, and “good old-fashioned flashcards” to find the learning solutions that work best for each student.




“We help everyone, from students whose instructor recommends they come in, to go-getters who want to be the best of the best,” says Jodi. “Students often visit right after they learn about us at orientation because it’s a comfortable place to study. We’ve got free coffee and granola bars, and there’s been a big group of students who come in their PJs to practice their knife skills between 8 and 11 p.m.”


OK, what’s the story with the wines class?

“The most intimidating thing about the wines class is it’s a new subject area,” says culinary science major and peer tutor Kaylee Gill. “Most of the students are underage and don’t have much experience with or knowledge of the subject. Plus, it’s an incredible amount of information to absorb in a very short period of time.”

Wine Studies even inspires some students to work with Kaylee before the course begins. “The key to doing well in Wines is knowing how you study best,” she says. “You may study differently than your friends, and that’s OK. Helping students figure out how they learn and how to use study methods to be successful are my favorite parts of tutoring. Plus, it’s great to hear ‘I got an A on my final because of the help you gave me.’”


learning commons Wine studies professor MIchael Weiss.

Prepared for success

Michael DiPaola entered the CIA with a clear goal. “I didn’t do that well in high school and I really wanted to do well when I came here,” says the culinary arts management major. “I decided I would get nothing less than a B. So I came to the Learning Commons every day to do all my homework, because I knew if I stayed in my room, I would procrastinate.”

And how’s Michael doing now? He just completed a semester at the California campus for the Farm-to-Table Cooking concentration, and is back in New York hitting the books and looking forward to graduating with his bachelor’s degree in December. “I already got offered a job while I was out there, with the executive chef at a winery who I guess liked what he saw.”