New Changes for Academic Services

The Academic Services Department in Jones Hall has some new faces this semester, according to Ben Ernst, who took over last semester as director.

Joining Ernst is Steven Mitchell, tutoring coordinator, as well as Barbara Dame, accessibility services specialist. Dame replaces Danielle Ward, who left the college in December after 20 years to work for ProMedica. Dame’s position also has a new moniker, “Accessibility Support Services.” The program previously was known as Disabilities Support Services.

Academic Services is dedicated to supporting students in achieving an obstacle-free education,  by overseeing programs such as TRIO, Student Tutoring, and Accessibility Services.

TRIO program at AC is part of a federally funded service in support of low income and first generation college students achieving an education.

“TRIO has been around since 1964, and it is a federal program so it is all over the country,” said Ernst, “At Adrian College we deal with helping undergraduate students and also graduate students through our McNair Scholars program, while other TRIO programs could include high school students.”

McNair, more formally known as the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program, is a TRIO program that provides academic guidance and financial aid to students who both come from backgrounds often underrepresented in graduate school programs (i.e., minority students and first-generation college students from low-income families) and express a commitment to pursuing a Ph.D (or a comparable terminal degree). While based at Siena Heights University, the program accepts eligible students from Adrian College.

Accessibility Support is a program offered by Academic Services to assure accommodations are made for students who need them in an effort to support their education. Before Barbara Dame, new accessibilities service specialist, this position was held by Danielle Ward for the past 20 years.  

Among many of the staffing changes within Academic Services, the approach to student tutoring services are also being revised to incorporate a maximum amount of technology to reduce unnecessary paperwork and wasted resources, by new Tutoring Coordinator, Steven Mitchell.

“It’s an effort to get tutoring services up to date with the 21st century, which would make it easier for tutors to use something simple like logging into Google to access our resources, it’s really a win/win” said Ernst.

Ernst, a Michigan native, from Howell, studied undergraduate and graduate school both at the University of Michigan, studying German and later higher education.

“After undergraduate school I worked a bit in the athletic and business departments of U-M, and then I taught as a Fulbright teaching assistant in Austria and that was when I found that I loved teaching and supporting students, which ultimately led to here.”

Prior to becoming Director of Academic Services in late August, Ernst worked within the department as Support Services Specialist for his first 5 years at AC.

“My responsibilities as director has pushed me a little bit behind the scenes here in Academic Services, working on re-writing the grant, determining budgets, establishing connections with other offices on campus, etc.,” Ernst said.  “I am excited, though, for the opportunity both to learn and to make sure that we are supporting our students as strongly as possible. I find this very rewarding.”

As for his favorite part of AC, Ernst credits Academic Services, as well as AC’s friendly and driven students and staff.

“It’s really important to me that we are servants to the students in helping them both graduate and be successful,” said Ernst. “I love the students, the staff, and also working with TRIO students for their hard work in overcoming obstacles, it is very inspirational.”


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