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Mike and Laura Graces’ gift will establish the Learning and Writing Center Relocation Fund, which will make the center’s offerings more accessible to students. (Photo by Ted Richardson)



Mike and Laura Grace want students to know it’s OK to ask for help. (photo courtesy of the Graces)


Gift will help Learning and Writing Center improve access, reach more students

Laura and Mike Grace first discovered the Learning and Writing Center at a first-year orientation session for their son, Patrick, now a Carolina senior, and it lit a spark that has stayed with them these four years.

The Learning and Writing Center provides personalized coaching and resources to help students from all backgrounds and abilities find success both in and out of the classroom. Programs include writing and academic coaching, peer tutoring, study groups, test prep, online resources, English language support and more.

Their belief in the center’s mission of helping students succeed is what ultimately led the couple to make a generous commitment to establish the Learning and Writing Center Relocation Fund. The fund jump-starts a partnership between the Learning and Writing Center and University Libraries to strengthen the center’s offerings and improve accessibility for students.

In addition to providing support to help move the center to a more central location on campus, the fund will also help meet the growing student demand. It will support staff recruitment, technology and innovation, curriculum development and more.

The center’s message of inclusivity, collaboration and assistance aligns with the couple’s core values, and was a message instilled in Laura Grace at a young age — from her father, who was grateful for the opportunity to go to college.

“I feel fortunate that I grew up in a family that was very open-minded and truly believed that we are all created equal and all have a variety of gifts to share,” she said.

Despite a family history of notable Notre Dame alumni on Mike’s side — Patrick decided to follow in Laura’s father’s footsteps (and those of other family members) and attend UNC-Chapel Hill. He’s majoring in history and peace, war and defense.

Laura serves on the Learning and Writing Center Advisory Board, collaborating with campus leaders, donors and others with a vested interest in the center to sustain and enhance the mission of accessibility and achievement.

“The reason we support the center is the leadership,” she said. “They love and know the students and embody its mission. Their passion is having the best possible experience for all students, and that trickles down through the student’s educational experience.”

Laura hopes to use this platform to promote the center’s activities and create a universal message for students that it’s OK to ask for help.

“A large population of UNC students use these services, no matter their major, program or how they’re doing in school,” she said. “The center understands what it takes to educate our world now. We’re in a diverse learning and cultural environment, and there’s nothing more important than improving how we communicate, being open to working with others and appreciating our strengths and weaknesses.”

Kim Abels, director of the center, said private support like the Graces’ gift empowers students to succeed.

“We are so grateful for Laura’s leadership on our board and her family’s commitment to making the center’s services more accessible,” Abels said. “We look forward to working together with University Libraries to build a model of innovative and inviting academic support at Carolina.”

By Erin Kelley ’13