Kathy Neal is the Coordinator of the Academic Success Center, located on the first floor of the Academic Building. Her role at the Center is to arrange for peer tutoring by hiring all of the peer tutors that work in the center. She also arranges the tutoring times for those instructors that have tutoring options available. Copies of both peer and faculty tutoring schedules can be found in the Academic Success Center. Additionally, Neal provides academic counseling services for students who are struggling academically and are considered “at risk.” Recently, she sat down with Brittni Cebulak to answer 5 Questions.
Q: What is the Academic Success Center and what services does it offer WWU students?
Neal: The Success Center is a free resource center for any kind of academic assistance that students might need. We are open five days a week, including four days (Monday-Thursday) when we are open until 8 in the evening. We provide academic counseling, peer and faculty tutoring. We provide brochures for various issues, such as test anxiety or test-taking skills, study skills, and different things like that. The Director of Advising is here, so we can also assist with any questions on what classes you might need to take if you’re concerned about any conversations you’ve had with an advisor and have questions. We provide computers for student use so students can come in and work on projects. We have a conference table, so if you want to do study groups you can set up study group times here in the Center. We have these great beanbag chairs if you just need a little downtime and want to lounge for a bit, or a comfortable place to curl up and read that textbook assignment. It’s really an all-purpose academic resource and study center.
Q: What would you say are the most underutilized resources at the Academic Success Center?
Neal: Absolutely at the top of that list is our peer tutoring. We have tutors available all afternoon, and I don’t know if students aren’t aware of them or if they’re just nervous about coming in to use this resource. The peer tutors are students that provide assistance in a specific area of study, and I don’t think the general student population really maximizes the potential they could have for improvement by using them. The other thing is just, in general, students coming in to study. We have space for studying here, whether you’re studying independently or with a small group. So I’d like to see more students come in and just utilize the space.
Q: For what subjects does the Academic Success Centers have tutors for right now, and how does a student become a peer tutor if they are interested?
Neal: Right now we have writing tutors, math tutors, and a Spanish tutor. We are also looking for another science tutor. We have had a science tutor in the past, so we’re just replacing one who was not able to continue this semester. And we are always looking at what the student needs are. If there seems to be a demand for another area, we can look at hiring additional tutors in those areas. Students interested in becoming tutors should initially contact me—probably by e-mail—to schedule an appointment to come in and talk to me. We can look at their major, what courses they’ve taken, how they’ve done. They would also need to bring in some recommendations from faculty. So, if they have an instructor they have a good rapport with, they might have them write a quick letter of recommendation.
Q: If you could address those students who might be hesitant to come into the Academic Success Center to get help from a peer tutor, what would you say to them?
Neal: I think with students at the typical college age, there’s always some intimidation in letting somebody else—one of your peers—know that you’re struggling. I would encourage them to realize that while, yes, they are peers, there is also an advantage to that. And that advantage is that these students know how you feel, they know what it’s like to be a student—to stress over these things—and they can work with you on a level that is more conversational, that is more relaxed, and a little less rigid than maybe working with a faculty member could be. We certainly have great faculty, but sometimes just having to meet with their instructor is a little frightening. So this is just a more comfortable way for them to come in and get some help, not be judged, and come out of here feeling a little more confident. Our tutors have been really amazing at helping students turn that corner in whatever subject they’re struggling in. I would just encourage everyone if they’re struggling—even a little bit—and they’re not sure, just to come in and get a second set of eyes on whatever it is they’re working on because that never hurts.
Q: Is there anything else that you want students to know about the Academic Success Center?
Neal: I would just like them to know that we are always here for them. We’re not here to just make a paycheck, or because we’re doing everything the administration says, we’re here because we care about the students and we want them to be successful. I think that is really relayed in how we work with the students, in our conversations and in our relationships with them. We’re a pretty laid back group, and we’re easy to talk to. We’re encouraging, but sometimes we also give you a dose of reality that is necessary at times. I just want any student out there to know that they have support if they want it. You don’t have to be on a probation list. It’s really about saying “hey, I need a little extra help, and these people can help me.” But even if you’re not on a probation list and you’re kind of in the middle of the road, we can still help you, and I would like everyone to feel comfortable doing that—coming in and asking for the help they need.