Thursday, July 14, 2016

Summer orientation sessions set tone for students’ academic careers

Current students, faculty and staff members are involved with orientation sessions.

As students in the Chillicothe Campus’ incoming class of 2016 begin their college journeys this fall, summer orientation sessions are designed to help them begin on the right foot.

OU-C is hosting six orientations this summer for incoming freshmen, in addition to three sessions for College Credit Plus Students and two for students transferring from other universities and colleges.

In keeping with the campus’ approach, these sessions are designed from the students’ perspective, in terms of both focus and format.

“The purpose of the orientation sessions is to position the students for success. At this juncture, the emphasis is on giving them the resources they need to have a successful first week and the insights that will help them throughout their college careers,” Director of Student Services John Fisher said. “From a practical standpoint, we want to make sure the students have their class schedules, their financial aid in order and are prepared for the first day of class. In a larger sense, we want them to understand the rigors and time commitments that face college students.”

The ultimate outcome is for these incoming students to achieve their college goals, earn their degrees and pursue a college experience that prepares them for rewarding careers.

“At OU-C, we take student success seriously and, therefore, put great value on the orientation process making sure it is focused and profitable for the students,” Fisher said. “It is a team effort with faculty and staff members from throughout campus joining together. Also, student employees play a critical role in connecting with their peers and sharing insights to answer questions they may have.”

The orientation sessions last about four hours each, thereby giving the new students a comprehensive experience that is also time-efficient. Further, orientation sessions are held at various times of the day to accommodate the schedules of the incoming students, many of whom hold jobs while attending college.

“The Chillicothe Campus is committed to offering an educational experience that is tailored to our students, and that emphasis includes our student orientation offerings,” Fisher said.

Further, many OU-C learners are first-generation students, who may feel somewhat intimidated by the college process, so an effort is placed on making the orientation sessions personable and engaging.

This year, a new feature has been added, with faculty and staff members sharing information about academic programs, student organizations and others campus offerings during an informal period at the beginning of each orientation session.

At each session, the incoming students attend an information session in the auditorium, which focuses on policies and procedures of importance to the students, as well as available resources to help them succeed. They are also made aware of extra-curricular activities, various campus offices and the importance of checking their university email accounts for updates and information.

The new students then meet with academic advisors, including both faculty and staff members, who help them select their fall schedules, before registering for classes in a computer lab.

“At the end of the day, the incoming students are ready to attend their first class this fall, which is the goal,” Fisher said.

Also, while the students are meeting with their academic advisors, their parents, spouses, siblings and other members of their support group meet with campus members to discuss their roles in their students’ success. In this way, the emphasis on teamwork takes a very personal approach.

Student Success Center tutors thrive in their own post-graduate pursuits

The Student Success Center continues to earn its name.

In remaining true to its name, the campus’ Student Success Center is focused on providing the resources to help individuals thrive in their academic endeavors. That same theme is found with the center’s tutors, many of whom have accomplished their own great things since graduation, in both the workplace and graduate studies.

One reason for the tutors’ post-graduate success is undoubtedly found in the ‘soft’ skills they develop, which are valued by future employers.

“If our tutors don’t have these skills going in they certainly learn to develop them quickly,” math center coordinator and math faculty member Dennis Ray said. “Many of our tutors are younger students and have to work with those who have been out of school for some time.  … The tutors need to listen carefully to the needs of the tutee and meet them where they are, understanding our students have a myriad of background experiences in school.”

Success center coordinator Debra Nickles, who is also an English faculty member, emphasized the tutors’ need to hone their listening skills. “Tutors working at the SSC certainly walk away with sharpened communication skills—both written and orally,” she said. “They often find themselves working as mediators in writing processes between professors and students. Their job is to analyze and review the goals of the writing assignment and then communicate what the professors are looking for to other students who may just be entering the university. In order to communicate clearly, they must also be active listeners.”

This ability to engage with individuals of various walks is of particular importance to students pursuing graduate degrees.

“Tutors not only work with other students on campus, but they also work closely with faculty. By learning and understanding the ‘bigger picture’ concerning education and specific discipline goals, the tutors learn how to position themselves and their work better in the academy—especially graduate school, where many end up,” Nickles said.

The standard is set high for the student-tutors, and they benefit from those high expectations.

“The tutors I work with all demonstrate an exceptional level of professionalism. They take themselves, their work and each other seriously. Fully listening and approaching topics with an open, curious mind is a skill most tutors come in with. Analyzing arguments from multiple perspectives grows as they continue to work with students across the disciplines,” Nickles said.

Beyond personal attributes, the students must embrace the concept of teamwork, which prepares them well for wherever their future endeavors lead them.

“It is amazing to me how easily our tutors work together.  In math especially, certain students have more experience in a particular area,” Ray said. “They lean on each other quite a bit. It’s rewarding for me to watch a couple of them try different ways to explain a topic to a student.

More than just English and math abilities, the student-tutors must be well-versed in the all-important “people” skills, and working with peers steepens that learning curve.

“I have told them they are not expected to remember everything, but they must be willing to work through unfamiliar problems with students,” Ray said. “This in itself can be valuable as a role-modeling method of showing students how to handle a problem they may be stuck on when they are studying on their own.”

Nickles said, “OU-C certainly serves a diverse group of students with a diverse set of attitudes and approaches to learning in general and tutors learn to anticipate and respect diversity. When a student walks in the door asking for help with a writing project, the tutor must work to build a welcoming rapport. Some tutors consider themselves extroverts and have an affinity in easily striking up a conversation and bridging the gap between awkward assumptions a student might have about what we do here and the reality that we are here to help them teach themselves. Other tutors learn to build relationships with their tutees more slowly as they discover their own position in tutoring writing.”

The success center employs between six and 10 student-tutors each semester, and each student averages about 60 tutoring hours each term.

While many of the qualities are developed and fine-tuned during their time as tutors, the students themselves need certain personal skills to thrive.

“The best tutors are bright, engaged, curious and eagerly helpful students. They have excellent writing skills themselves. … They cheer the best parts of a student’s writing and help students discover their own patterns of error for correction. They enjoy their work,” Nickles said.

Prospective student-tutors need to have an overall GPA of at least 3.6 and a reference from an OU-C faculty member as initial criteria.

Following is a list of some former success center tutors and their current pursuits:

•    Alyssa Ater, Teacher at Worthington Elementary

•    Liberty Bell, Earned a master’s degree from Ohio University and now teaching for OU-C

•    Sarah Cook, Finishing master’s degree in healthcare field and works for Adena Regional Health System

•    Callie Cory, News Editor at The News Record/Intern at Streetvibes

•    Shea Elizabeth Daniels, Graduated with master’s degree in  social work degree and will be at Paint Valley High School this fall

•    Sarah Dreitzler-Swenson--Youth Leader at Trinity Church

•    Laurelei Erwin, Graduated with master’s degree in political theory from Ohio University

•    David Felty, Systems Researcher for the State of Ohio in the Office of Workforce Development.

•    Ryan Holdren, Teaching at Western Schools

•    Kyle Jones, Earning a Ph.D. at Northwestern

•    Ben Karst, Teaching in Unioto Schools

•    Anita Lane, Earned master’s degree and is an adjunct faculty member at Marshall University

•    Cory Palletti, Practical Nursing Specialist for U.S. Army in Korea

•    Julie Retherford, Digital Service Manager at the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library

•    Matt Sanderson, Teaching in Unioto schools

•    Jennifer Slone, Public Service Coordinator at Garnet A. Wilson Public Library of Pike County

•    Brandi Weaver, Library Director at OU-C

•    Jordan Williams, Enrolled in an M.A. English program, will teach her first 1510 course this fall