Taking Academic Success to the Next Level

July 25, 2021

The Office of Academic Success, which launched on July 1, brings together student-focused academic resources and coordinates them under one UM-Dearborn office.

Graphic showing the variety of resources available in the Office of Academic Success
Graphic showing the variety of resources available in the Office of Academic Success
Graphic by Jeffrey Knudsen/Michigan Creative

When it comes to scientific concepts, like a plant’s life cycle, Harry Rahn draws sketches for students to see. For vocabulary terms, Rahn teaches them the meaning of the root word. 

“I love science,” said Rahn, a UM-Dearborn graduate student. “When you can visualize something as it exists in the world around us or understand the root of a word — like knowing bio means life and -ology is Greek for ‘the study of’ — it helps you understand and retain what you’re learning.”

Rahn is a long-time UM-Dearborn tutor and Supplemental Instruction (SI) leader. And he’s one of the many people available to help students excel in their courses through the newly formed Office of Academic Success.

The Office of Academic Success, which launched on July 1, brings together the academic resources around campus and coordinates them under one UM-Dearborn office.

For students, there’s Tutoring Services, Supplemental Instruction, the Science Learning Center, the Math Learning Center, and the Writing Center. For faculty and staff, the office will closely work with the Hub for Teaching and Learning, the Office of Digital Education, and other areas of Faculty and Institutional Support.

“The Office of the Provost and all four colleges saw an opportunity to bring areas together to allow for greater support, more coordinated resources and a stronger focus on academic success,” said Office of Academic Success Director Jessica LaGrange.“This change also gathers resources in one office and makes them easier to find rather than navigating among services across campus.”

In addition to the work already happening on campus, the office is developing new collaborative programming geared towards both students and faculty for the coming academic year. Plans in development include microgrants for faculty and coordinating programming with peer mentoring groups, and professional development training sessions for the office’s nearly 100 student employees. 

“Sessions will cover topics like professionalism, learning strategies, difficult situations, and facilitating sessions or interacting with students in a peer-learning environment,” LaGrange said. “All students can learn and benefit from these skills, no matter which area they are working in within Academic Success.” 

Senior Ben Bartley said he’s benefited from the campus' Math Learning Center, SI sessions and tutoring services. Bartley said he’s a good student, but was struggling in a few math and science courses.

“My high school didn’t cover the material that we were learning in class, so I didn’t have the foundation I needed. I felt like I was fighting to keep up with the material. Then I heard about the different ways you can get help on campus,” said Bartley, who had Rahn as a tutor and SI leader. “I could have struggled through and gotten Cs or Bs on my own. But Harry pushed me to the next level and I got all As.” 

LaGrange knows the importance of the academic campus services through hearing about experiences like Bartley’s and seeing the numbers. Last year, the learning centers and tutoring held more than 4,300 virtual appointments and engaged with more than 1,200 students. And Supplemental Instruction supported 30-plus courses, many with multiple sections. 

She also knows offering different styles of support — from group sessions tied to specific courses, to one-on-one meetings, to asynchronous support — is important in accommodating different types of learners. To meet students wherever they are, the Office of Academic Success also will offer both in-person and virtual options this fall.

Bartley said the free services are a must-use. He said it will help boost grades and your social network.

“The people you meet are students too — they just happen to be really good at a particular class or subject. It’s nice to have someone to learn with and I’ve even made study groups with other students from my SI sessions,” he said. “It helps to know you have someone there when it’s crunch time for a test or when you are just trying to make sense of something you’ve read in a textbook. Tutors like Harry want to help. They’ll reduce your stress and increase your G.P.A.”

Want to learn more about the Office of Academic Success? You can visit their website or reach out to them.

Article by Sarah Tuxbury.

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