Knocking down walls to improve student success

A San Diego Miramar College student and mentor use the college’s recently remodeled Academic Success Center. (Photo: Miramar College)

San Diego Miramar College is literally tearing down walls for student success.

In October, a construction crew took a hammer to the plaster walls separating the California college’s student computing lab — the Independent Learning Center (ILC) — from its tutoring center. The end result is a more encompassing Academic Success Center (ASC) dedicated to student success.

“We knocked down the wall so that we could have a continuation of services,” said Donnie Tran, ASC’s faculty coordinator. “Students can now move more freely between the Independent Learning Center and the area that was formerly known as The PLACe (Personal Learning Assistance Center). But more than anything, this should be seen as a collaboration of services among academic support and student services to expand resources to address student needs.”

The renovated area now has seven study rooms, student access to dozens of computers in the ILC and more tutors.

“The ASC makeover isn’t about just remodeling a building,” Tran said. “It is more about expanding our resources available to students.”

The key to it all is the hiring of more tutors, especially supplemental instruction tutors (SIs), who are focused on helping students in individual programs. A year ago, Miramar College’s tutoring services employed just four SIs. This year, the ASC has close to 100 tutors with nearly 30 percent designated as SIs.

“The addition of the SIs is big for us,” Tran said. “These are experts from a number of different subjects and they work closely with our students to provide tutoring services in almost all disciplines.”

For example, the center recently hired an SI for its emergency medical technician (EMT) students.

“We’ve seen greater attendance in a morning EMT class that initially concerned us, and the students seem to be more engaged in their coursework,” Tran said.

Academic labs

The ASC reorganized last summer to add the English Center, Math Lab, ILC and the PLACe under its umbrella of services. Austin Adzima, a third-year student studying engineering, spends two days a week in the ASC working on his pre-Calculus assignments.

“I struggle with math and I am an engineering major, so I am trying not to let the math get in the way of getting a degree,” Adzima said. “I have seen a marked improvement in my grades since I started coming here. I get to work with the same tutor each time, and I feel like I am more prepared for class.”

The English Center, located within the ILC, uses graduate students from nearby universities to serve as tutors. Students may come and get tutored in their ESOL (English Second or Other Language) or English courses without an appointment. Tutoring is provided by either an English/ESOL faculty, a graduate student or peer tutors.

As a result of the renovation, the English Center can now access the ASC’s conference and training rooms to hold weekly workshops. Before the renovation, the English Center only had use of one study room. With more space, more workshops can be scheduled.

Other benefits

The ASC is also collaborating with the Career Center and Outreach to provide additional services to students. Using the ASC space, the Career Center hosts monthly coffee chats where students can meet with potential employers in a more relaxed setting and practice their “soft skills.” Outreach peer mentors meet with students at the ASC to check on their progress and offer guidance throughout the semester. Peer mentors can also use one of the seven study rooms.

Some of the other perks provided by the ASC include space to accommodate adjunct faculty office hours.

While it is too early to measure the overall success of the new ASC, early data show that for the first two weeks of the spring 2018 semester, 407 students used almost 800 hours of services. The top five subjects tutored are math, biology, chemistry, English and physics.

About the Author

Steve Quis
is a public information officer at San Diego Miramar College in California.