The first organized Learning Support Center was launched in Stratham in 1994 under its original name, Center for Learning and Career Development (CLCD), The Center's location was in the back of the college's library where it remained until February 2002, at which time it moved to an expanded space on the second floor. The CLCD at Stratham was one of 7 Learning Centers implemented within the New Hampshire Postsecondary Technical Education System (PSTE)*. Guiding their development and implementation was the “Learning Resource Center Network” (LRCN), a collaborative and interdependent group of individuals committed to helping NH citizens realize their occupational and educational dreams.

The LRCN was born out of a partnership between Dr. Jeff Rafn, Commissioner for PSTE, and Ray Worden, Executive Director for the New Hampshire Job Training Council (NHJTC). Their desire was to combine the strengths of both agencies to create access and opportunities for disadvantaged adults in the state of NH. As early as 1992, these two individuals got together and explored the possibilities and benefits of such a partnership in leveraging federal funds to support a statewide system of education and training centers. Dr Rafn, a previous director of NHJTC, was familiar with the mission of this organization and saw a clear partnership that would expand educational opportunities to disadvantaged citizens. The original idea was to colocate New Hampshire Technical College (NHTC) and New Hampshire Job Training Council (NHJTC) employees and programs on all seven campuses, thereby providing a continuum of services from intake and career assessment to training, education, and job placement.

NHTC Stratham's local implementation team was formed in the spring of 1993. Members from three agencies were represented: NHTC, NHJTC, and Vocational rehabilitation (VR). The original members were: Guy Mitchell (NHJTC), Diane Stradling (NHJTC), Fran Bishop (NHJTC), Mitch Warren (NHTC), Charlotte Buffington (NHTC), Sue Cote (NHJTC), Tina Hale (VR), Marcia Merrick (NHTC), Pat Shay (NHTC), and Gail Parady (NHTC).

Original Mission

NHPTE and NHJTC will jointly provide to all people in NH the highest quality education and training opportunities which are student-centered, easily accessible, responsive to and supportive of individual needs. This will be accomplished through an interdependent partnership which maximizes the strengths of each partner and obviates any distinction in services.

The partnership pooled its resources; NHJTC provided funding for staff and operational expenses, PSTE provided funding for technology, and VR provided funding for adaptive equipment. The year 1993 was a busy year. Four PLATO licenses were purchased along with appropriate hardware, three full-time positions were drafted and approved, a fee schedule was established, and a key services matrix was developed. Early in 1994, a coordinator for the Learning Center was hired, Judith Randall. Judith quickly put together a search committee to bring in two additional learning specialists: Mitch Warren and Cynthia Bioteau. It is worth noting that Mitch had provided tutoring for students at Stratham in an “unofficial capacity” for two years prior, and was well prepared to slip into a position that would allow him to expand tutoring services. A part —time secretary (15 hours) was also hired, Celeste Plante. Nineteen ninety-four proved to be both a productive and tumultuous year with staff coming and going and programs trying to get off the ground. In that year (1994) Judith Randall and Mitch Warren both resigned, but not before they solidified the Center name, designed a logo, developed a brochure and Center newsletter and created the first client intake form. Thanks to their efforts, students at NHTC were beginning to find their way to the back of the library to take advantage of CLCD services. Cynthia Bioteau continued to carry the torch until two more individuals were hired.

Original Services:

Assessment, computer-aided instruction, tutoring, study groups, workshops, disability support, academic counseling, career software, and coordination of “Strategies for Success” course.

In the fall of 1994, Rob Worthley was hired as the Center Director and Sarah Scranton (Bedingfield) as a second learning specialist. At this time, the single parent program, “Project Success” was moved under the direction of the CLCD. Later that fall, however, Rob Worthley left his position as director and a different organizational structure was proposed and accepted. With the approval of Ellen German, who oversaw the LRCN, a shared management system was developed which allowed the CLCD in Stratham to funnel the director's salary into another learning specialist position, thus bringing services in ESL, career counseling, and community and high school outreach. The addition of a third learning specialist also allowed services at the Pease Campus to be initiated and sustained. In January of 1995, Jeanne Stacy was hired as the third learning specialist. Services to students continued to grow and expand, despite the transitions about to happen in 1995.

Two major events occurred within the next year: the merger of Stratham and Manchester as a regional college and the co-location of NHJTC on the Stratham Campus. The latter represented the final step in the original vision of Dr Rafn and Ray Worden. While a reorganization of the 7 colleges in the NH Postsecondary Technical Education System was going on, NHJTC was bringing their client and business services under the roofs of each Technical College in the system. The name of the Center was changed from the Center for Learning and Career Development to the Learning and Career Center (LCC) to reflect a more unified and seamless partnership. In theory, this bold move made a great deal of sense, but there were issues that proved to be barriers to successful implementation. One of the major issues was the Federal regulations associated with the funding source for this initiative, the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA). These federal funds had certain client stipulations that served to restrict services (and, thereby, money) to only those individuals that could meet the eligibility requirements for Job Training Grants. All other individuals, which included a large population of college students, were unable to access the education and training services offered by NHJTC. “Which population do I serve?” became a major question. On the plus side, this partnership laid the foundation for a 1 stop-shop model, and several years later, when the JTPA evolved into the Work Investment Act (WIA), this model was successfully implemented at the NH employment agencies. Many of the Job Training Council employees were reassigned to the 1-stop Centers in these locations.

Learning and Career Center Mission:

To provide opportunities that are accessible, responsive and supportive of all students and community members. Quality services shall enhance academic achievement, occupational success, and personal growth. The Center will empower all individuals to accomplish education and/or career goals consistent with their values, interests, and abilities.

But let's return to the merger of Stratham and Manchester and see what impact this initiative was having on the growth and development of the LCC. In 1996, Cynthia Bioteau stepped up to the plate as regional coordinator for the LCCs on both campuses. Her role was to bring both departments into alignment with regard to programs and services as well as represent the two Centers at the administrative level. Under the direction of Cynthia, the LCCs transitioned to Academic Affairs, became fully absorbed within the college's operating budget, and emerged as a highly recognized retention arm of the college. Cynthia's move to regional coordinator left vacant the position of Disability Specialist, but funding allowed for only part-time employment of a specialist. Over the next 3 to 4 years, several very talented professionals filled this position: Diana Varga, Nancy Richter and Dr. John Handfield. In 2001, Sharon Cronin became the fourth Disability Specialist, yet within 2 years, with the help of Perkins Funding, the position was funded full-time. Learning specialists continued to come and go. Jeanne Stacy left in 1997, her position being filled by Ingrid Young. Ingrid left early in 2000. Both Ingrid and Jeanne were talented, student centered individuals that left to support their spouses' relocations to other parts of the country. Both women have continued to work in community colleges in support of student success. Sarah Townsend was hired in April of 2000 and 5 months later, Cynthia left for a position at Bunker Hill Community College. Cynthia left the Learning Centers in good shape; services and funding sources had expanded, a new name was adopted (Department of Instructional Studies), and college wide recognition for the LCCs' value to student success and retention was intact.

Department of Instructional Studies Services:

Assessment, tutoring, math and writing labs, workshops, open lab, career exploration, computer assisted instruction, disability support, special accommodations, academic intervention and remediation, ESL support, study skills instruction, alternative testing, and online support for distant learning courses.

Shortly after Cynthia Bioteau's departure, President John O'Donnell convened the various members of the Manchester/Stratham Learning Centers and spoke of a reorganization that would address gaps in advising services and define the role of the Learning Center (or the Department of Instructional Studies) as extending from acceptance to graduation. Acting as interim directors, Sarah Bedingfield and Marion Knedler worked to shape a vision for the future of the Center for Academic Planning & Support (CAPS). Along with the members from both Learning Centers, a proposal was drafted that included a mission, goals, facilities, programs/services, and staffing. In February 2001, the proposal was presented to President O'Donnell, and with the support of then VPAA Cathy Smith, was approved and implemented. A primary change for CAPS was the addition of a whole new service area: academic planning. Under this umbrella term came the subcategories of academic advising, placement testing, international student services, job readiness, transfer counseling and new student orientation. Combined with existing services, the scope of accountabilities was (and still is) quite extensive; staffing was needed to meet the expansion. Five positions for each campus were drafted and approved. In Stratham, those positions were, (and still are): Director (Sarah Bedingfield), Developmental Services Coordinator (Carol Despres), Disability Services Coordinator (Sharon Cronin), Career/Transfer Services Coordinator (Kim Edwards), and ESL/International Services Coordinator (Sarah Townsend). In 2004, the latter position evolved into “Diversity Programming Coordinator” to include non-traditional enrollments. The professionals that fill these positions are outstanding and have been with CAPS since the reorganization's implementation.

Mission of CAPS

The Center for Academic Planning and Support will empower all individuals to accomplish educational and employment goals consistent with their values, interests, and abilities. The Center provides a wide spectrum of academic support services and opportunities that are accessible, responsive and supportive of all students and community members.

During the next three years, CAPS flourished under the presidency of Dr Catherine Smith, the support of so many faculty and staff and the hard work of dedicated professionals. Additionally, the 2002 accreditation of NHTC as a community college along with a move to an expanded area on the second floor allowed for an increase in programs and services to students. A 24 station computer lab was implemented along with space for quiet testing, tutoring, and self-study. As a result, student usage has exploded as witnessed in the comparison chart below (Table 1). Funding sources from various grants such as Perkins and Title III have also allowed CAPS to hire more staff and fund specific program needs. As recent as 2004, two additional employees were added to the CAPS family: an IT specialist (Mike McNeil) and a teaching assistant (Megan Wilson). These two positions have allowed CAPS to expand technology and its accessibility to members of the college community and beyond.


Table 1: Comparison of total hours spent by students in the Learning Center
Services Fall 1997 Hours Fall 2005 Hours
Assessment 2 267
Computer Assisted Instruction 18.25 370
Computer Usage NA 1304 Counseling 20.15 616
Classes (using Center) 3.25 646
PLATO 150 838
Self-Study NA 830
Study Groups no data found 315
Special Accommodations 2.25 183
Tutoring 95.25 172
Workshops 68 135
Math Center NA 283
Writing Center NA 64.50
Support Groups NA 278
Alternative Testing NA 125.15
Distinct Student Count 123 898
NA = not available during that year.

While we (CAPS) revel in the current stability of minimal turbulence, we know it is short lived as we face the “uncoupling” of Manchester and Stratham and a move to consolidate the Stratham/Pease campuses in one location. But as we know, change has its value — it forces us to think and respond in new ways. CAPS will thrive under any circumstances due to its central mission of supporting students.

* After the 2002 accreditation of New Hampshire Technical Colleges as New Hampshire Community Technical Colleges, the system office changed its title to: the Community Technical College System (CTCS).

Many thanks to the following individuals who contributed information towards this writing via conversations, minutes and documents:

  • Cynthia Bioteau
  • Fran Bishop
  • Susan Emery
  • Sara Sawyer
  • Mitch Warren
  • Mary Williams