A learning difference does not need to limit a student's potential. The Arch Learning Community provides comprehensive support to students with diagnosed learning disabilities and/or other learning differences who would benefit from a unique individualized program to help achieve academic and personal goals. This year, the Arch Learning Community is marking its 20th anniversary of helping students build the skills for success in a traditional college curriculum.

“I have been in the Arch program since my freshman year at Dean,” said Tiana Cimino ’23, an Early Childhood EducationTiana Cimino major. “Throughout my years at Dean, the Arch program has helped me build skills that I use inside and outside the classroom. During my transition from high school to Dean, I was nervous like any other graduate high schooler, but once I had gotten to Dean, I was able to make connections with my advisor, professors and coaches.”

Nico Levasseur ’23, an Athletic Coaching and Recreation Management major, was also nervous aboutNico Levasseur starting college, but said that the Arch program helped him make the transition. “I was new to this school and was nervous and struggling to figure out where my class locations were, but my academic coach helped me with showing me where my classrooms were,” he said. “Being in the Arch program has been great because I’ve been given resources and accommodations that help relieve me of stress and anxiety if I have a big test or quiz going on.”

20 Years of Arch Learning Community

When the Arch program was initially proposed in 2001, it was designed as a one-year transitional program to support students with diagnosed learning differences. Over the years, the program has grown to become part of the admissions process as an academic support program for students seeking both associate and bachelor's degrees and has evolved its support services in various ways. Students benefit from Arch-designated courses, one-on-one academic coaching each week, specialized full-time Success and Career Advising and an Arch-specific orientation, among other services. As students progress through the program and through Dean, support continues based upon their level of individual needs.

By embedding strategies and skills into a traditional first semester, students excel not only inside the classroom, but also outside the classroom, by joining clubs, athletics and performing arts groups, and using their strengths to become active members of the Dean community. These opportunities to become involved on campus are one of Tiana’s favorite parts about attending Dean. “When applying to colleges, I wanted to go to a small inclusive school that can not only help me through my studies, but to make connections with the staff members and student life on campus,” she explained. “Being at Dean, there is so much to do, but my favorite thing is how much involvement there is throughout the school.” Both Tiana and Nico are orientation leaders for the three-day Arch orientation held prior to the start of the semester, while Nico also participates in intermural basketball and other sports clubs on campus.

Another key element of the program is the personal support students receive from faculty and staff at Dean, especially from their academic coaches. Arch students often have the same academic coach for their entire Dean career. Nico emphasized how important this support has been to helping him succeed at Dean. “I chose Dean not just because I love playing sports, but when I found out they had a program for students with autism and other learning disabilities, I knew this was the right school,” he said. “I’ve been given the opportunity to take these classes and use my accommodations so I could learn new things and not be judged. I love how supportive the staff and professors are and how they help students to have a great semester and learn new things.”

Tiana also acknowledged the math, writing and subject-specific tutoring and support services available through the Morton Family Learning Center, which she turns to for guidance when she has a paper or project coming up. “There are many places on campus that can help you, but these are my favorite. They will help and guide me on the right path towards my future.”

As Arch has evolved over the past 20 years, the aim of the program remains the same – to help students to take charge of their education and achieve independence and success, both at Dean and afterwards.

Learn more about the Arch Learning Community.