Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Free Tutoring Helps Students Find Support and Connect Across Classes

Tutoring programs rank among our most popular student services.

Two students study in campus courtyard

Morgan Schuster knew she was capable of passing the first-year curriculum in Bastyr University's Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program. She also knew it was going to be difficult. So she turned to the University's tutoring program and found an advanced student who met with her one-on-one to help her study.

She passed her classes — and gained a friend and a new sense of perspective along the way.

"Tutoring is the way I've been able to make it through the program," says Schuster, now in her second year. "It's also a great way to meet people in other classes. I have a lot of friends in the first-year class, and I tell them all to get tutors."

That type of support is the goal of the Bastyr's tutoring program, which offers free sessions with paid tutors to all students. It's a key way the University can offer rigorous science-based programs that are accessible to students with limited scientific backgrounds.

"Some students come here without much of a science background, even though they're well-qualified," says Mary Kay Grossblatt, coordinator of the Office of Tutoring and Disabilities. "That's great, but there can be some catching up too."

"To See the Stress Leave Their Bodies"

The tutoring office pays tutors through its work-study program. Students who have succeeded in a class and have a recommendation from faculty can become tutors, and Grossblatt connects them with students seeking help. Students coordinate meeting times on their own, in pairs or groups of three or four.

Students can seek tutors for any class, graduate or undergraduate. For nutrition, acupuncture and Oriental medicine, naturopathic medicine and other programs, the most popular tutoring subjects tend to be basic sciences — classes covering organic chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology. Writing is another popular tutoring subject.

Jennifer Pilon, a tutor and third-year naturopathic medicine student, appreciates that tutoring offers flexible hours and is open to international students (she's from Alberta, Canada). She enjoys helping students find ways to organize the large amounts of information they receive, she says.

"What I like most is helping people categorize the info they're getting," she says. "They're all very intelligent people. The challenge is having a model to organize all the information. To see the amount of stress that leaves their bodies when we do that is really rewarding."

A Future of Collaboration

Academic departments offer their own study groups as well, Grossblatt says. Faculty member Rebecca Love, DVM, offers weekly tutorials for Gross Human Anatomy Lab to allow students more time in the lab. In the naturopathic medicine program, if students struggle in a course, they can work with tutors before retaking exams to stay on pace with their cohort.

Bastyr University California students use similar programs, meeting with tutors both on-site and over Skype with Kenmore students.

For Pilon, tutoring is a way to develop camaraderie to draw on throughout her career as a naturopathic doctor.

"I guess I feel a responsibility," she says. "If we're going to be colleagues as NDs, I'll eventually need help from my classmates one day. This is a way to get started."

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