A $74,950 grant from the Cisco Systems Foundation is supporting a unique and successful pilot project at Georgia Gwinnett College. The “Tutors Around the Campus” (TAC) program provides tutoring services in a variety of campus settings, thereby enhancing academic success and promoting retention.
“GGC’s Student Success Programs help to bring under-prepared students to appropriate academic levels and assure individual support,” said John Muth, dean of the School of Transitional Studies. “We are deeply appreciative of the Cisco Systems Foundation’s grant, which supports our TAC pilot initiative and enables us to broaden our tutoring services across campus.”
The grant funds tutors in locations such as dining areas, the student center and student residence halls, to name a few. The approach provides an option for students to receive tutoring in familiar, comfortable environments, and seeks to attract those reluctant to access services in the traditional lab environment.
“This strategy is working,” Muth said. “Our TAC tutors served an average of 117 students each in the same time period that tutors in our Academic Enhancement Center served an average of 59 students each.” Given the success of the program, GGC continues to add tutors through the Cisco grant. The new tutors will follow the trail blazed by the program’s enthusiastic initial tutors.
One of those tutors is Amanda Tyndall, who makes her office wherever students hang out. A café and a lobby in two campus academic buildings are her usual haunts. She places a sign on her table to show she’s available, and students from all disciplines come to her with their writing assignments.
“The part I most enjoy is telling students what they are doing well, because there’s always something that they’ve done well,” she said. “If we can pull that out and focus on it, then the rest becomes a lot easier.”
Tyndall is careful to let her students take an active part in editing their own papers.
“It does them no good if I re-write the paper for them,” Tyndall said. “I want them to walk away with better writing skills. They won’t learn those skills unless they use them.”
After teaching high school English for several years, Tyndall relishes the opportunity to work one-on-one with students at GGC.
“I’ve already had some students come back to show me their papers, and they’ve really improved,” she said. “It feels good to know I’ve been able to help.”
Kimberly Grimes holds a doctorate in medicinal chemistry, but it is her own struggles in a college physics class that most influence her work as a TAC chemistry and biochemistry tutor.
“My undergraduate physics tutor was awesome,” Grimes said. “If I hadn’t had that tutor, I wouldn’t be here today.” Monday through Friday, Grimes can be found in the student center foyer or one of the academic buildings’ food courts, quietly tutoring students while others walk by or chat. Grimes said the pay-off comes when students begin forging connections between formulas, theories and lab experiments.
“In chemistry, I always loved the lab, where you see everything you’ve studied in action,” Grimes said. “What I try to do is to help students make sense out of their lecture notes or textbook material so they can have the same experience when they go into the lab. That’s where they can see how it all applies.”
Ricky Fulton holds an undergraduate degree in math and a master’s degree in secondary mathematics education, and taught middle- and high school mathematics. Now retired from BellSouth, he said he feels like he’s landed in the perfect job.
“I would do this even if I wasn’t being paid,” he said. “The fun part about one-on-one tutoring is when you help someone over a wall that they’ve been hitting. That’s what I get to do, every day.”
Wherever he sets up his “office,” Fulton welcomes all – from the basic math student struggling with a homework problem to the education student trying to figure out how to teach multiplication to fourth graders. Some stay for five minutes, while others may pore over a problem for an hour or more. To Fulton, all students are looking for the same thing: a clear explanation of what’s before them.
“Sometimes, to understand a concept, they need to get a different perspective,” Fulton said. “That’s why I try to explain things in different ways. Even when a student says they have it, I might go back and try the problem from a different angle, just to see how well they have it.”
The TAC pilot includes a rigorous set of evaluation measures that will be reported to Cisco and used by the College to assess the impact of this project, as part of an extensive program of academic support.