October 16, 2009

Business college creates academic success center

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- “Rehn 10,” a new academic success center created especially for students in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s College of Business, is already a hit.

It’s located in Room 10 in the lower level of Rehn Hall. The goal is to assist students with any class where they might need a little extra help. At present, that’s typically math and accounting coursework. The center is open each weekday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and evenings by appointment.

Business students can get free tutoring one on one or in small groups. The center picks its tutors on the basis of recommendations from the math or accounting departments, which ensures the tutors really know what they’re teaching, said Jill Gebke, director of enrollment management for the College of Business. She said the college accepts student requests for tutoring in any course and if there’s sufficient need, they will have tutors in place. Otherwise, they will set up small study sessions or refer students to other resources elsewhere on campus to obtain assistance.

The room has two areas; part is set up like a classroom with laptops, marker boards and a podium. The rest has movable dividers creating small study carrels for individualized tutoring or studying. There are marker boards there are well.

During the first week alone, 20 people utilized the new success center, and usage has grown every week since the September grand opening. Lisette Ortega-Vidal, a graduate assistant in the business college, is the coordinator for the academic success center.

The results of the tutoring have already been apparent, said David Rhoads, a junior math and finance major from West Frankfort who is one of the math tutors. He said he has helped about 15 different people, some just once, others on a weekly basis.

“Some of the people who have come by have seemed like they were really struggling but they’ve come back after we’ve worked together and told me they scored a 91 or something like that on a test. When you can see the results it really makes me feel good about my job, like I’m really accomplishing something helping them,” Rhoads said.

Matt Toenjes, a senior accounting major from Red Bud, works at the center as an accounting tutor and he also finds it gratifying to be able to help other students accomplish their goals. He said business students study individually or in groups often at the center and that sometimes results in impromptu tutoring. There are set schedules when tutors are on-site or students can request tutoring at a specific time too.

Also in conjunction with the new resource center, the college has implemented the early alert retention and scheduling tool “Grades First,” Gebke said. Using the program’s Facebook application, students can check the center’s schedule and request a specific time and/or tutor.

Grades First also allows the college to monitor student grades and class attendance so it can offer help, according to Gebke. That help can take many forms -- from checking to make sure a student isn’t having a health issue to assuring they have the books and materials they need, to making the offer of tutoring at the new center.

“Whenever we see a student is missing class or perhaps having academic problems we can contact them and see what’s going on and see if we can help. We really want our students to succeed,” Gebke said. Typically, she’ll initially e-mail a student who may be at risk and then follow up if needed. She said the Grades First Facebook application is totally confidential and private; students can’t see what’s happening with one another but they can view assignments, see what’s happening at the learning resource center, request tutoring and contact faculty.

The college’s differential student tuition is funding the new facility. A differential tuition went into effect for the 2008-2009 school year for all business majors, with the additional funding pledged toward student services.

“Our students are very important to us and we believe the academic success center is an important tool in helping them do well in their classes, stay in school, graduate and succeed,” Gebke said.

For more information contact Ortega-Vidal at lovidal@cba.siu.edu or Gebke at jgebke@cba.siu.edu or by telephone at 618/453-7487.