BY JORDANNA GARLAND
From taking classes in a building with no windows and unreliable air conditioning to a full year of online learning, students and faculty of the Wilmington Associate In Arts Program (AAP) have had a challenging past two years. However, now with classes at the Community Education Building (CEB), the Wilmington AAP has seen vast improvements.
The AAP is a two-year program that offers courses taught by university faculty to students in small classes at the CEB in Wilmington and on the Delaware Technical Community College campuses in Dover and Georgetown. Upon completion of 60 credits at the AAP, students will earn their associates degree. They then have the opportunity to transition to the Newark campus to pursue bachelor’s degrees and live on campus.
The CEB was built in the mid 1990’s, originally a part of Bracebridge, an independent banking company. The Bracebridge complex was a cluster of buildings in Wilmington which was then bought out by Bank of America in 2005. However in 2012, the CEB was then donated to Longwood Foundation Incorporated, a non-profit foundation created by Pierre S. du Pont in the 1930’s to fund the operation of Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania and community projects. Today, the CEB holds charter schools such as Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School and also provides a program called WAVE for students seeking an equitable education.
Located on 1200 N. French St. in Wilmington, the CEB has numerous classrooms, study rooms, lounge areas and offices. On the walls are projects and presentations made by Wilmington AAP students. An art exhibit titled “The Medium is the Message: The African Diaspora Story” curated by university artist Michael Dela Dika was recently on display and available for viewing.
“I love [the CEB]. Yeah, I think it is beautiful. I think it is a beautiful, clean, spacious, life filled, professional space, and particularly with those of us who used to teach or have our offices and/or have our offices at the Del Tech building, its incomparable and so for us that building was really in bad shape,” Neri de Kramer, temporary assistant professor of anthropology, said.
Before having space in the CEB, Wilmington AAP classes were previously held at the Delaware Tech campus in Wilmington and the University of Delaware Downtown Center in Wilmington. According to David Satran, faculty director of the AAP, students had to walk between the two locations to get from class to class.
De Kramer said the Delaware Tech building was in poor condition. She said there were leaks in the roof and the windowless classrooms were either too cold or too hot depending on the functionality of the AC.
“It was very old fashioned, it had lots of problems. Leaks, things wouldn’t work, the classrooms had no windows,” de Kramer said. “I had one student tell me at one point that he felt disrespected by the space there.”
After a year of online learning via Zoom, Wilmington AAP junior Noach Pehowic said that being in the CEB has helped create a sense of community. The pandemic took away the crucial element of camaraderie and replaced it with mute buttons and off cameras.
“On Zoom, you don’t really feel, I guess comfortable, or you just don’t really want to talk to other people,” Pehowic said. “But when you’re in the building, it’s a lot more hands on and you’re also more encouraged to talk to other people and engage with other people.”
This upcoming semester will mark the one year anniversary of the university being back to in-person learning. With classes now being in the CEB, Wilmington AAP students and faculty have had time to reminisce and reflect on the past year. Satran shared a fond memory of the CEB from last summer.
“It’s going to sound really silly, but we really had a wonderful coordination with other parts of UD last summer to make sure that the building was ready for our faculty, staff, and students…” Satran said. “So when the Wi-Fi went on late in the summer of last year, we knew it was all real. We knew it was gonna happen.”
Since being in the CEB, students and faculty have expressed their contentment with the building. After a journey of less-than-ideal spaces and remote learning, the CEB creates an environment for students to succeed.
“Well, the Community Education Building is fantastic because their mission so closely aligns with our mission, and that is educational equity, and what that means is to provide students with the resources that they need in order to be successful,” Satran said.