History of the Learning Commons

The University of North Texas at Dallas (UNT Dallas) has been recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the United States Department of Education. Because of the HSI designation, UNT Dallas was awarded a joint five-year grant in the amount of $875,000 as a result of a cooperative arrangement with Mountainview College from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010.

 The grant’s main objectives were to improve student writing skills through the establishment of a Writing Center and to provide professional development opportunities for faculty and staff through the Writing across the Curriculum program over the five year funding period.  Funds were awarded annually in $175,000.00 increments to cover all expenses associated with the three key goals of the grant. 


The Title V Grant-sponsored Writing Center was established in August of 2010 under the guidance of Moises Almendariz from Mountain View and Gloria Bahamon at UNT Dallas. Key UNT Dallas leaders with a heart for our students and passion for student success set out to develop what would become our present-day Writing Center.  The original vision included development of a writing space where students would feel welcome, bring their written work across disciplines to the center, and receive paramount tutor services and empowerment to become better writers.


In the Fall of 2011, 24 students received services from a group of seven faculty members across multiple disciplines who dedicated their time after teaching full-time to tutoring during office hours. Tutoring sessions took place in various classrooms and faculty members’ offices. One semester later, still early into the Writing Center development phase, the number of students receiving services increased from 24 to 68 students which resulted in 152 face-to-face tutoring sessions. 


During that time, Dr. Rath conducted a formal study of the Writing Center’s impact on students’ writing skills, which was measured by in-semester grade improvement.  In this study, students in two sections of English 1313 (Composition) met in the lab once a week for grammar review sessions, peer review of rough drafts, and discussions on writing issues. Results showed that students raised their course average.  Students who started the semester with low D’s and F’s showed improvement in writing performance to a grade C or higher; others who started with C’s and B’s took the challenge to revise or rewrite and improved their grades to B’s and A’s.  


Spring 2013 saw a shift in the Writing Center staff and in tutoring procedure. Peer tutors were replaced by three professional tutors: two of these had PhD’s and one a master’s degree in English. The Center also hired Paulina Romero as its permanent Writing Center Coordinator, and Orlantha Coleman was the Project Coordinator and Researcher. In addition, Provost Lois Becker and Dr. Gretchen Hackard were named Primary Investigators and Directors of the Title V Grant. This change spawned a new period of growth that allowed the Center to be recognized as an indispensable student service. By Fall 2013, the center had grown its service impact to 159 students and had conducted 458 tutoring sessions.


As the grant neared its end in August 2015, Dr. Angela Drummond-Mathews and Dr. Deborah Scally were offered full-time positions as professional tutors, and the Writing Center came under the purview of Katrina Coakley, director of Advising and Academic Support and now Assistant Provost for Student Success. Paulina Romero was named Learning Commons Coordinator, and with the support of various lead UNT Dallas administrators, the Writing Center evolved in to a holistic tutoring center that would eventually be known as the Learning Commons and would include the Writing Center, Math Lab, Supplemental Instruction, Peer Tutoring, and a Study Hall.


With the addition of more peer tutors, both graduate and undergraduate in 2014, student attendance in the Writing Center improved. We had a total of 860 Writing Center student visits in 2014-2015, and a total of 1,218 student visits in 2015-2016. Our service impact has grown from 159 students in 2013 to 390 students served by the end of Spring 2016. An overview of our statistics is listed below:

  • During the Fall 2014 semester, the Writing Center held a total of 411 tutoring sessions for students in 49 courses and across 19 majors.
  • During the Spring 2015 semester, the Writing Center hold a total of 450 tutoring sessions for students in 51 courses across 22 majors.
  • Summer 2015 saw fewer students coming for tutoring, with appointments totaling 108 in 20 courses and across 16 majors. This was expected because fewer classes were held in the summer.
  •  A total of 237 unique students scheduled 660 appointments at the Writing Center during the Fall 2015 semester. Comparing Fall 2015 data to Fall 2014 data, we saw a dramatic increase of 37.7% in student usage of the Writing Center.
  • A total of 153 unique students scheduled 450 appointments at the Writing Center during the Spring 2016 semester. Comparing Spring 2016 data to Spring 2015 data, we saw a slight increase of 0.2%.


The current team considers it an honor to embrace the pursuit of student success and to “empower students, transform their lives, and strengthen the surrounding communities.” We are confident that students utilizing Writing Center services will show improvement and become better writers and strong advocates and supporters of the university as they develop their personal and professional lives during their studies at UNT Dallas and after graduation.