UA’s Think Tank reports high demand for STEM tutoring

October 20, 2009

By hammersmith

Think Tank Reports High Demand

Melissa Vito

Melissa Vito, UA’s vice president for Student Affairs, talks about the success of the University’s Think Tank during its grand opening. (Credit: Jessica DeWitt)

Think Tank Staff

Think Tank staff members help connect UA students with a broad range of academic support services, including tutoring for math, science, Spanish and writing. (Credit: Jessica DeWitt)

The Think Tank, the UA’s center for academic support services, offers tutoring, peer mentoring and weekly course reviews.

It is halfway through the semester, and the Think Tank’s academic services are already beginning to see more traffic than they had independently.

Since opening at the University of Arizona Student Academic Learning Center on the first floor of the Nugent Building about eight weeks ago, the Think Tank has had more than 4,100 visits, said Victor F. Mercado, the program’s academic resource coordinator.

“It has a new address and a different feel,” Mercado said, during the Think Tank’s grand opening and open house, which was held on Friday.

The Think Tank, which operates as a department within UA Student Affairs and collaborates with other units across campus, was created to help improve the academic success of UA’s student body by offering a wide range of support services in one location – mostly at no cost to students.

Those services include math, science, writing and Spanish tutoring along with weekly group review sessions, supplemental instruction and peer mentoring for all UA students. 

The Writing Center alone has seen about a 25 percent increase in traffic in that time, having had nearly 450 visits, said Jeff Orgera, executive director of Student Academic Learning Services.

“We have such a comprehensive array of what we’re doing,” Orgera said. “The Think Tank and its resources for learning clearly would not have been possible without the support of a lot of people.”

Among the more than 4,100 visits the unit has seen so far, more than 2,200 were for help in math, more than 350 were for science, about 290 for course review and more than 800 for supplemental instruction, which places students who are taking some of the larger lecture courses in smaller group study sessions.

The idea for such a division was formed more than one year ago and the result is something the UA has not had before, said Melissa Vito, UA vice president of Student Affairs.

In centralizing student academic support service, “a synergetic learning environment” has been created, Vito said.

“We have never had anything like this before – it’s a synergy that has never existed,” Vito said. “My goal was very simple. We had just come off of a great recruiting year and I simply wanted our retention to become as world class as our recruitment.”

And the Think Tank is continuing to evolve.

The program is researching and assessing the use of its services to continue to develop its offerings, Vito said.

Also, students, faculty and staff members interested in serving as members of the Learning Services Council are currently being sought. The new council will meet regularly to discuss ways to both maintain and improve the Think Tank’s effectiveness while strengthening campus-wide collaborations. The group is set to begin meeting in November.

Professional staff, graduate assistants and undergraduate students with areas of expertise in science, math and humanities are at the core of the center, which is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and 5 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.