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Success at Your Doorstep

Main photo: the entrance to the Student Success Center on State Quad. Inset (lower right), students Chris Li and Jared Milano at work in the center. (Photos by Thomas Kika) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 12, 2016) — A new study lounge is adding opportunities for students to succeed, right where they live.

Through a joint project between Academic and Student Affairs, the first Student Success Center opened last month in the lobby of Whitman and Tappan halls in State Quad, offering students tutoring sessions, academic resources and a dedicated study space.

The idea for the center began a year ago, when Laurie Garafola, assistant vice president of student affairs, and JoAnne Malatesta, assistant vice provost for undergraduate studies, brainstormed on ways for advisors to be visible on the quads and to create a space for tutoring. This summer, State Quad's former fitness center was redone to house the new center.

"This is an additional opportunity for students to be academically successful through the use of tutoring, supplemental instruction, study skills and time management development as well as core academic help — even in some cases section-specific," Malatesta said.

The Student Success Center is a first for the quads. It's designed to provide academic support from student tutors and help facilitate conversations that allow a deeper understanding of the material in a small-group environment. The center is equipped with small round tables, large rectangular tables, a small living room space with 2 white boards, a projector and a television.

"We call it a ‘success center’ because it was designed to not only provide academic support through tutoring, Monday-Thursday, but also other resources on Fridays, including programs facilitated by Career and Professional Development and Professional Services, such as workshops on writing resumes and how to interview” said Garafola.

“During high-stress times, like mid-terms and finals, programs designed to reduce stress will be scheduled, including bringing in therapy dogs and programs facilitated by Counseling and Psychological Services. We are looking to program that space on Fridays so there's a variety of other services focused on student success."

The center has a full schedule of subject-specific tutoring available from mid-morning to 8 or 9 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays. On Fridays, Residential Life and Student Affairs use the center to incorporate activities that relax students and that are both academically and personally useful.

Biology tutoring sessions are so far the most popular and students are encouraged to sign up in advance, said Barbara Brown, coordinator of Advising Plus. Other subjects, including psychology and mathematics, are walk-in friendly. The center also offers open tutoring in such subjects as computer science, political science, sociology and criminal justice. It's available to all students at every level.

"To create a center like this, which is providing great tutoring opportunities, is a powerful development,” said Sari Khatib, assistant director of new student programs. He added that bringing academic resources to the residence halls is a way to create an inviting, inclusive and intellectual program outside of the classroom. “It definitely allows more of our students to take advantage of our resources and hopefully to succeed in their courses.”

Brenda Cruz Lazo, a junior majoring in biology, attends the biology sessions once per week at the success center. She said the location is easy to get to and the tutors are knowledgeable and helpful. "The tutor is about our age and she also goes to school here so it's kind of easy to interact and ask questions without being shy," Lazo said.

The Student Study Center is already being used more than was the fitness center, Garafola said. "It has taken off — anywhere from a handful to 20-25 students at each of the scheduled sessions. I think students appreciate the fact that these services are available and conveniently located where they live.”

Brown recommends that students take advantage of the center. "Oftentimes students are embarrassed or afraid to seek help because they feel like, 'I must be so lame if I can't get this,'" Brown said. "But everyone needs help — even the smartest people I know seek out tutoring."

Students can sign up through Advising Plus at albany.edu/advisingplus.

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