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2012 Spring Issue 5 (May 4, 2012)

Businessweek Features Carleton's Academic Support Center

May 4, 2012
By Anna Jarman

Carleton’s Academic Support Center has been getting some good publicity lately.

In an April 19th article titled “Coaching College Freshmen so they Don’t Drop Out,” BusinessWeek featured Carleton’s ASC as a prime example of colleges helping incoming freshmen adjust to the rigor of college academics.
Carleton’s Academic Support Center is made up of six main resources: the Academic Skills Coach, the Math Skills Center, The Writing Center, the Second Language Writer’s Program, the Speak Easy, and the Prefect Program. 
Math Skills Center  supervisor and campus legend Russ Petricka believes it is important for Carleton to have an Academic Support Center because, as he said simply, “there are very high expectations here.”

“The college has high expectations and students have high expectations of themselves,” Kathy Evertz, director of the ASC, agreed. “The Academic Support Center helps bring those [expectations] together and helps students achieve their goals.”

Evertz said that Carleton’s ASC is unique in that it is highly collaborative.  “There are many places on campus that provide academic support outside the center itself,” said Evertz.  “It is highly coordinated.  The library, ITS, PEPS, and professional staff all communicate witheveryone to make academic support a community effort.”

Evertz also attributes the success of the center to Carleton’s uniquely non-competitive academic culture.

“There is a culture at Carleton of students helping students in their learning,” said Evertz.  “It’s just what you do, provide support and ask for support.”         

Tegra Straight, Carleton’s academic skills coach, said that the ASC’s goal is to “assist students who want to develop new or more productive ways of meeting their academic goals.”

“It’s really about helping students get where they want to go,” said Straight. 

“Students entering college are confronted by a less structured schedule and many more activities than they had in high school,” she said.  “Carleton students want to be able to do it all, but time management is a life skill we all have to learn, whether on our own or with someone like me.”

The Math Skills Center supports students in any math or math-related course they are taking at Carleton.  The Center “seeks to ‘level the playing field’ by giving students who enter Carleton without strong mathematics backgrounds the tools they need to succeed here at Carleton,” said Petricka, the Center’s supervisor. 

“The great thing about the Math Skills Center is that it is a collaboration space,” said Petricka said.  “Tutors are there to help students but students also are able to help each other.  It is a very supportive atmosphere.” 

The Second Language Writers Program provides writing support to Carleton’s second-language students.  The program “coordinates tutors with students who want more support with their writing,” said the program’s director, Renata Fitzpatrick. 

The Speakeasy seeks to help students hone their communication skills.  Students practice speeches and trained coaches assist them with everything from articulation and eye contact to the content of the speech itself. 
“Many students have the impression that the Speakeasy is just for comps talks,” Evertz explained.  “But it really can be used for any student presentation.”

The Prefect Program’s mission is to increase students’ knowledge and deepen their understanding of concepts students learn in their courses.  The program assigns student tutors to classes to facilitate optional group study sessions in Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Math, Political Science and Psychology. 

“Prefects are another chance to process the material by talking and asking questions,” said Petricka.  “Verbalizing the material helps students retain it.”  Prefects are also available to tutor students one-on-one.

Evertz emphasized that there is “no stigma of remediation” in seeking help with the Academic Support Center.  “We know people who come [to Carleton] are bright and like to learn,” said Evertz. 

However, “sometimes the ways they learned in high school are not working for them in this new context and they need to develop new skills or refine their skills.”

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