Students Discover How to Learn, Advance With Help From GCU Tutors

December 06, 2012 / by / 0 Comment

By Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau

Like many students who seek assistance from GCU’s Center for Learning and Advancement, Lilia Aguirre struggled to juggle college classes, a family, her job, and other commitments.

The 51-year-old Mexico native had been out of school for 31 years. In times of stress, the best advice offered by advisers at her previous college was to drop the class and start again when she could comprehend the content. But she refused to give up and just drop a class.

The Center for Learning and Advancement has a staff of 25 tutors that assist students with everything from mathematics to essays at undergrad, graduate and doctoral levels.

Aguirre began an online course at GCU this year and is currently in the middle of her second class of her elementary and special education undergraduate degree. With English as her second language, she had trouble with her writing assignments and sought out assistance from CLA tutors located in the center at GCU’s Ken Blanchard College of Business.

The tutors worked with Aguirre on understanding the different English nuances, grammar and punctuation rules and how to write in a clear, comprehensible fashion. She has received mostly “A” grades on all her papers while maintaining her 4.0 GPA.

“When I first started writing at GCU, I would end up writing in Spanish instead of English. Or if I did write in English, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I’m writing like a 10-year-old,’” said Aguirre, who was amazed at her level of improvement.

The Center for Learning and Advancement began in 2009 under the lead of Executive Director Dr. Kevin Thrasher, who came to GCU in 2006 to work in the College of Education after serving as a public school teacher and instructional specialist in Phoenix.

When Thrasher came to the university, GCU was entering an era of online education and needed a tutoring center to aid students in the new venture of exclusively online education. Thrasher helped build the CLA to accommodate both ground students and nearly 45,000 others online to help students learn, but also to adjust professionally and socially.

“The purpose of the CLA is to support students as they transition from high school…to a college environment,” Thrasher said. “It is a totally different world.”

“I think the tutoring center is essential because rarely do the people that walk across the stage and receive a diploma do it (solely) themselves,” Thrasher added.

Today, the CLA provides tutoring services to hundreds of online and ground students each week.

Along with English and writing, the Center for Learning and Advancement has a staff of 25 student tutors that specialize in mathematics, statistics, business, nursing, theology, biology, and chemistry at undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels. Tutors work with students for 30-minute sessions up to once per day, five days a week. Tutoring session can either be face-to-face in the center or online via phone or interactive websites.

Andrew Smith, a GCU professional counseling graduate student who works as a graduate and doctoral writing tutor, has served at the CLA for two years since moving from the tutoring center at Arizona State University. With close to 40 sessions per week, he has experienced the issues that online students face and has learned ways to combat those issues.

“Necessarily, for online students, one-on-one time with a tutor is what they need to help resolve their issues, because they don’t have anyone else,” Smith said.

“Coming to the CLA can be the first step to getting help,” he said. “Asking the first time can be the hardest part and breaking that can lead to a lifetime of getting the help they need when needed.”

Contact Cooper Nelson at 639.7511 or

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