The Win Commons
The Win Student Resource Commons is an uncommon gem in the world of services offered by academic institutions. Not that anyone should be surprised by the existence of an innovative and strongly student-centered initiative on the campus of Simon’s Rock, of course. Since its founding in 1966, one of the hallmarks of the college has been its unique approach to the education of young scholars. Its very status as an early college is testament to the uniqueness of Simon’s Rock: its student body is entirely comprised of bright young individuals who forego the latter two years of high school to get an early start on a higher education.
Intended to augment the college’s already strong academic advising system, the Win Commons was created to provide in-depth, individualized support to the exceptional student population of Simon’s Rock. Designed to meet support needs defined by alumni and critical to an increasingly diverse campus, the Commons serves students in a variety of ways. In terms of common academic needs, students receive assistance locating internship, tutoring, and study abroad opportunities, as well as have access to a Writing Center and Quantitative Studies Center. Because of the unique nature of the college’s program, matters related to transferring to other institutions or the Upper College of Simon’s Rock is of particular concern to students, and personalized assistance in navigating this process is also available through the Commons.
The services offered through this initiative do not end at academic support, however. The Commons also provides students possessing learning and physical disabilities with access to adaptive technologies and assistance in managing their academic challenges. The diversity program provides workshops and activities to prepare students to live in a multicultural world, and the wellness program assists students in cultivating conditions and attitudes of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Altogether, the full complement of programs offered through the Win Commons represents a system of strong, holistic support. It is no surprise, then, that this initiative was named for Ba Win and Judith Win. Both Ba Win (faculty member and current vice president of Early College Programs and Policies) and his wife, Judith (current director of Psychological Services), have a near legendary status on campus because of their contributions to the achievements of generations of Simon’s Rock students. Countless alumni attribute their success to the unflagging guidance, help, and encouragement offered by Bawin and Judith. The Commons honors their legacy in more than name alone—it is a program that reflects the nature of the support the Wins provided generations of students.
The intensive, individualized support offered to students through the Win Commons may be rare in the world of academia, but it is—as the faculty and staff of Simon’s Rock are quick to remind—a necessary component of the college’s core mission. Many assume that bright, motivated students lack the need for strong support outside of the classroom, but that assumption is based upon the idea that education occurs solely within the classroom and consists primarily of the retention of course material. When viewing education as the process of developing the skills, talents, and achievements of an individual as a whole, however, it is clear that more than instruction and cursory assistance are needed to deliver a truly successful college experience.
Coupling that idea with the college’s essential objective of giving its atypically young scholars a broad-minded, paradigm-shifting education, the necessity and value of the comprehensive support system represented by the Win Commons becomes abundantly clear. As director of college relations Christopher Sink points out, this in-depth support “is fundamental to and integrally aligned with the nature of the college’s teaching practices. It’s a visceral and tangible part of the experience of learning at Simon’s Rock.” The college’s supporters agree with the importance of this initiative, as evidenced by the fact that it has been one of the first elements of the capital campaign to be funded.
Since its creation, the Win Commons initiative has proven successful in its effort to provide resources, guidance, and opportunities to the students of Simon’s Rock. In addition to its demonstrated success as measured through retention rates, grade point averages, and surveys, the Commons has also had a positive impact on the overall campus environment. “It is an inviting and comfortable place,” reports dean of new students Rebecca Fiske, “and many students utilize the space as a safe and supportive milieu.”