Tess Konnovitch, ’20, is enrolled at Rutgers University, where she’s pursuing a Ph.D. in computational and integrative biology. But for Konnovitch, course material in the sciences didn’t always come so easily to her.
Konnovitch, who double-majored in biology and environmental science, needed occasional assistance from her peers. She also sought support from the tutors and academic coaches at La Salle University’s Center for Academic Achievement.
“Everyone, whether you’re at the top of your class or not, can use help. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions about tutoring,” said Konnovitch, a native of Bristol, Pa. “and it’s why the Center is so vital to La Salle.”
Today, Konnovitch serves as a part-time STEM tutor at the Center, after three years as one of its supplemental instructors, subject tutors, and student-workers. She’s worked with dozens of La Salle students over that time.
“Each one is different,” she said. “Some say tutoring will take them away from their studying. It’s the opposite; this is a different way to digest and comprehend the material. Others have said, ‘I don’t need the Center anymore because I’m doing well in my classes,’ and my response is always, ‘You’re doing well because the Center is working!’”
Whether on campus or online, La Salle’s Center for Academic Achievement offers academic support to all students, with a range of services that increase a student’s chances for success by reinforcing their understanding of course content, improving their writing and study skills, and strengthening other core areas and skills.
Nationally, research suggests that students who engage in academic support services earn higher GPAs than those who do not, said Assistant Provost Teri Ceraso. Comprised of student and professional staff members, La Salle’s Center for Academic Achievement last year served nearly 1,100 students.
Here’s what to know about the Center for Academic Achievement, led by executive director Phenix Frazier Badmus and assistant director Melissa Gallagher, and how La Salle students can access and leverage its services:
All first-year students will be assigned to a success coach to help guide them through their introduction to the college experience. This comprehensive student success coaching program is an initiative of the Center in partnership with industry-leading coaching program InsideTrack, which aims to support student success, high performance, and career readiness.
One of the Center’s most-effective services, Ceraso said, is what’s called academic coaching. Gallagher, the Center’s assistant director, serves as one of the Center’s learning instructors. She and a small team of peer academic coaches support students from any class through one-on-one meetings and facilitating workshops. Those touchpoints cover a range of topics, from time management and organization, to study strategies, goal setting, test taking, and more.
3: On average, a single student will access the Center’s academic support services three times per academic year.
5: The Center is accessible five days per week—open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Tutoring hours vary depending upon tutor availability, though tutoring is often available during evening and weekend hours.
50: Approximately 50 La Salle students work in the Center for Academic Achievement as peer writing and subject tutors, supplemental instruction leaders, and academic coaches.
80: The Center for Academic Achievement provides some level of subject-specific support for nearly 80 courses at La Salle. Regardless of the course, students are eligible for writing tutoring and academic coaching.
1,100: Nearly 1,100 La Salle students used the Center’s services during the 2019–20 academic year.
The Center offers Supplemental Instruction (or SI, for short). This nationally recognized academic support program targets historically difficult courses by offering regularly scheduled study sessions who previously succeeded in taking a course. Students work collaboratively by reviewing their notes, organizing course materials, and preparing for exams and assignments.
Last year, La Salle students who attended at least one SI session achieved a GPA that was three-tenths of a point higher than those who did not. The tutors and SI leaders—those who have the most direct knowledge about center services—use the services at a very high rate, Ceraso said.
“My first semester on campus, I was told I used more hours of SI and tutoring than anyone else,” said Rayna Patel, ’22, a third-year student majoring in chemistry and biology. “I went to the Center every week to keep up with classwork and make sure I was getting the concepts. After that, I signed up as a subject tutor and I’ve really loved that.”
Patel chose La Salle because the campus felt like “a little family.” That same description applies to the Center for Academic Achievement, she said.
“The Center is a tremendous value to La Salle students, and we’re here to help one another,” said Patel, an Ocean City, N.J., native who has plans for either medical or dental school. “I would encourage any student to use it. It never hurts to get extra help, especially from your peers, who can simplify concepts and know what it’s like to be in your shoes.”
Another new feature, Starfish, is available to help students schedule tutoring appointments at the Center for Academic Achievement. Starfish is found in the tools menu of the mylasalle Portal, under the services listing that appears on the home page or in the list of a student’s courses. Starfish provides early alerts, progress reports, advising notes, and more. (Be sure to submit a copy of a writing assignment to the tutor before the time of an appointment.)
—Christopher A. Vito