At University Housing & Dining Services, we take special pride in the fact that the students that choose to live with us, on average, achieve higher grades and greater academic success than their off-campus colleagues.
It’s a key part of our story shared with new students and their families: Live in a community that values education, and leaves you plenty of time and space to focus on your studies in a hassle-free, amenity-rich environment with everything from high-speed internet to laundry service included.
In 2010-11, UHDS continued its partnerships with on-campus resources such as the Center for Writing and Learning, Math Learning Center, University Honors College, Austin Entrepreneurship Program, and others to provide free weekly tutoring opportunities and educational programs in every residence on campus.
The in-hall tutoring program was piloted in just a few halls in 2009-10, and has since been expanded to all of campus. UHDS devoted $10,000 of its budget to growing the program in 2010-11.
Assistant Director of Residential Education David Akana leads Academic Success efforts on campus, while Nick Martin, the graduate teaching assistant in Academic Success and Engagement, and Jill Chilldress, the resident director of Weatherford Residential College, are on the team that works closely with staff and students to schedule tutoring sessions and bring timely educational programing to the halls.
In addition, Martin reaches out to individual students that find themselves facing academic probation for failing classes, often steering them toward the tutoring available in their hall to help them get back on track.
UHDS also tracks the average GPA by hall and cooperative. Some of the highlights of the last year include the 3.0 average GPA maintained by UHDS cooperative houses in Fall 2011.
The highest G.P.A. of any hall on campus was McNary Hall, which had a 3.37 GPA average in Fall 2011. McNary was the University Honors College-themed hall (the honors college theme has now moved to West Hall).
Math tutoring is typically drop-in and often groups of students from the same class will get help together. Tutors cover subject matter up to the Math 251 curriculum and most are graduate teaching assistants from the Math department.
Writing tutoring is often one-on-one. Students can sign up for appointments to workshop writing assignments with a tutor through the Resident Assistant on duty.
Tutoring sessions are often hosted in hall lobbies or floor lounges, where more students can see the program and take the opportunity to try it out.
“I think we’re just trying to capture any student that can benefit from it,” Childress said.
"The idea is to develop a community support network that serves the needs of first-years," explained Childress. She said she sees the same people coming back again and again to utilize the resource – showing that it has a value that students return for.
In addition to the tutoring program, coming up with engaging programming for students in the halls was a priority for the department in 2011-12.
“Students have to see the value of it, after they’ve been sitting in class all day,” Martin said. “They don’t want to sit through another boring lecture.”
Planning exciting and educational programs can be difficult for RAs, so Martin created an electronic library of pre-packaged programs with learning objectives and tips that leave students with a tangible skillset.
By Nancy Raskauskas, UHDS online marketing specialist