ACE Centers again offer in-person academic support
Story by Lana Sweeten-Shults
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
Piece of cake for Carter Jarman, who navigates his way around sigma and pi bonds, ionic and covalent bonds, and polar and nonpolar bonds like a pro.
“I really enjoy being able to help students with o-chem because when I took it, it was my favorite course, and I enjoy helping others see how fun it can be,” said Jarman, a senior chemistry major at Grand Canyon University who fires up his neurons as a science learning advocate, or LEAD, at the new Academic & Career Excellence Center at the Colangelo College of Business (CCOB).
As it turns out, organic chemistry is on his most-requested list when it comes to helping his fellow GCU students. He tutors them during 15 or so appointments a week, some of them with multiple students.
That in-person, peer-to-peer academic help is something LEADS such as Jarman and others are happy to return to after almost a year and a half of virtual tutoring during the pandemic. (See a slideshow here.)
Not that students didn’t seek academic help during COVID-19, even if it was over a computer screen.
“I was actually concerned that students would be Zoomed out and wouldn’t want to join yet another Zoom meeting,” ACE Academic Director Marette Hahn said. “But we hit about the same number of virtual appointments last year as we had in person the year before, so I was really excited about that.”
Still, when classes started in September and ACE was in person again, the program’s leaders didn’t want students to forget about the academic support at their fingertips. They shot out of the gate to re-introduce the program, upping their game on social media, having a strong presence during Welcome Week and delving into an open house the first week of class.
“We have so many new students on campus that are hearing about us for the first time,” said Cathleen Daly, Program Manager of ACE, which offers free academic support for students along with career help and assistance for first-year students called the First-Year Experience.
Hahn added, “We did feel like we had to re-market ourselves. We’ve got two classes of students here who have never experienced us being open in person.”
That re-introduction means letting the campus community know about all the changes in academic support that ACE has made at its six campus locations. It’s a back-and-better-than-ever story that the ACE staff has been eager to share.
Math, science, writing help
Over the summer, Hahn and her team met with each college to explore the key needs for academic support and discovered that math, science and writing lead the way.
Previously, students visited specific ACE Centers to get support in those subjects. Diamondback was the heavy math and stats location, writing was available in a couple of locations and science was in Roadrunner. Now, math, science and writing support are spread across all locations.
“We really wanted to up the convenience factor,” Hahn said.
While each of the six ACE Centers provides that same math/science/writing support, each also offers a different focus in the colleges it represents.
The ACE Center at the Roadrunner Apartments, for example, is where students will find LEADs for the College of Science, Engineering and Technology as well as the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions. The ACE Center at Willow Hall, filled with freshmen, is dedicated to the First-Year Experience focus of the program.
CCOB ACE Center
Another big change: the addition of the Colangelo College of Business ACE Center in Colter.
Business and education students used to head to the first floor of Agave Apartments to get academic help, but the location wasn’t convenient to many students. So the college’s dean, Dr. Randy Gibb, pitched the idea of an ACE Center at Colter, just steps from the front entrance of the college.
”We realized that Building 43 had a room used for video storage, so we checked out the space and envisioned what it could become,” Gibb said of the fixer-upper project that the ACE team made happen. “The idea was to make it easy, accessible and visible to the thousands of students walking right past it each day.”
ACE collaborates heavily with the various colleges’ deans and faculty “to make sure we’re right alongside them in what support they need for their students so we can help those students,” Daly said.
The new CCOB ACE Center offers that key math, science and writing component, but it also houses LEADs who specialize in business courses, such as CCOB Expert LEAD Julia Kiefer.
The senior finance and economics major made the transition during the pandemic from being an online LEAD to an ACE Centers peer-to-peer LEAD and even taught fellow ACE Centers LEADs how to conduct sessions on Zoom.
This is the first time she is helping fellow students in person, lending a hand in such difficult entry-level accounting courses as Accounting 250 and Accounting 260.
What she loves about her job is that helping others “reinforces the things I’ve already learned,” she said.
But her favorite part?
“The friendships I’ve made. The same girl all semester has been coming in for help, and now we hang out after work.”
Still another change for the ACE Centers is its move to an appointment-based model. Pre-COVID, students became accustomed to walking into an ACE Center to see a learning advocate but now are asked to make appointments through Career Connections, the online tool students use to apply for jobs, RSVP for academic and career events, and build their career portfolio.
“Students can go in now (to Career Connections) and schedule appointments by the specific course they want support for,” said Hahn. “It was a little more generic before that. So now they know if they schedule for MATH 154 (Applications of College Algebra), they’ll get connected to the right LEAD.”
Daly added, “Students can come in and work with our LEADs to get that one-on-one academic support in any of the courses they’re needing help in. All of our LEADs have taken the courses that they are supporting students in and have passed those courses with flying colors. They’re usually hired on because they’ve been recommended by faculty. They’re really good.”
Besides tutoring, students have access to success coaching, which includes lessons in time management, study skills and other good habits.
They also can drop in on academic workshops, such as a mock midterm, or an After Dark Series group study session from 8-10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays on the first floor of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Carter Jarman has been one of those good students using his academic gifts to help his peers.
He said his favorite part of being a LEAD is watching fellow students have their “light-bulb moment.”
“When a problem they’ve been struggling with clicks, it’s almost like you can see the universe making sense to them … These moments are the reason I became a LEAD.”
Jarman was particularly excited last summer to help one student who was taking General Chemistry 2 (CHM-115). It’s a challenging course because of the math and complex concepts, “which makes taking it over the summer in the accelerated form an even bigger beast,” he said.
That student sat down with Jarman for two- to three-hour sessions two to three times a week. The student passed the course and made a point to find Jarman this semester, letting him know, “I couldn’t have done it without you!”
“It was a great feeling knowing I was able to help,” he said.
And it’s a great feeling for everyone at the ACE Centers to know they’re able to provide that academic support, full force, in person and back and better than ever.
GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.
The Academic & Career Excellence Centers are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays and 5 to 10 p.m. Sundays. Contact the ACE Centers at 602-639-8901 or [email protected] for more information. Math, science and writing help is offered at all the ACE Centers, each of which also specializes in academic assistance for specific colleges and programs:
- Humanities and Social Sciences: Success coaching, career advising, workshops
- Roadrunner Apartments: College of Science, Engineering and Technology/College of Nursing and Health Care Professions.
- Encanto Apartments: College of Fine Arts and Production/College of Theology
- ACE at the Colangelo College of Business
- Diamondback Apartments: College of Education, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
- Willow Hall: First-Year Experience
Video: Tutoring help at GCU