ARC Certification

Academic Resources Center Earns Certification from College Reading and Learning Association

October 7, 2015
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WPI’s Academic Resources Center recently received Level 3 International Mentor Training Program Certification and Level 2 International Tutor Training Program Certification from the College Reading and Learning Association, becoming the first institution in the state to achieve the Level 3 mentor certification.

Kim DeMur, assistant director of academic advising, said training helps with communication skills and leads to better tutoring and mentoring experiences for the students.Kim DeMur, assistant director of Academic Advising, says certification is an important distinction. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to provide the students with professional development,” she says. She knew training through an established program and the resulting certification would be a big step in making the center cohesive and effective for both the peer tutors and mentors, and the students they are helping.

DeMur reached out to the Community Advisor and Residential Services teams to establish a formal mentor training program, as well for the students, who act as peer mentors. While tutors are there to help out students academically, the mentors promote relationship building, says DeMur. They might focus more on things like indirect advising, help with classes and planning, organizing, time management, and motivation.

WPI as a whole is a great atmosphere and students love being part of these teams and being so connected.
Kim DeMur
assistant director of Academic Advising

Everyone at WPI’s Academic Resources Center is used to helping people, but progressing through the training to achieve each level of certification makes their task much more effective. Training not only streamlines processes, but also helps with communication skills and, in the end, a better tutoring or mentoring experience for the students.

And the balance of tutors and mentors is great for WPI students. The tutors, says DeMur are the students who love learning and want to teach other people. They want all the students to be successful in class. The mentors, she says, are more about program development. They are the ones, she says, who want to make sure WPI students have a blast while they are here.

The Academic Resources Center is a tight-knit group, says DeMur.Tutors and mentors, all upperclassmen, go through similar training for certification, each progressing through three levels of training with Level 3 earning master-level certification. DeMur trains all the tutors herself and the Community Advisors and Residential Services staff train the mentors.

Both groups are evaluated throughout the year so they can hear how their approaches and communication skills are progressing. “We give them feedback about the sessions to give them examples of ways to improve,” says DeMur.

WPI students do have a particularly valuable skill, she says. “The biggest thing they excel at is their empathy with the students, because they have been there, They may have had a higher grade, but they understand the intensity of being a student here.”

HIGH ACHIEVERS

Few college students are comfortable with asking for help, and WPI is no exception. DeMur wants to make the ARC more than a place to go when you are failing, she says. She gets the word out as soon as students return from the summer and even lets parents know help is available before stress becomes overwhelming. “They were all such high achievers to get here, and now they are swimming with the same fish,” she says of the first-years. “Everyone is so brilliant and there’s such a high standard to live up to.”

But empathy doesn’t mean complicated subjects are naturally easy to explain. A high-achieving tutor might need to step back and realize that the student being helped may not understand the material in the same way. DeMur says that’s where certification training helps. Whether there is a language barrier, a specific learning style, a disability, or a cultural diversity issue, the tutors and mentors are able to look for a better way to help each student.

“This helps them really, truly understand the populations,” she says. “For the students themselves it helps them become stronger leaders.” And the ARC is a tight-knit group. “WPI as a whole is a great atmosphere and students love being part of these teams and being so connected,” she says.

HELPING OTHERS

Pre-med and aerospace engineering major Cody Slater ’16 says he expected tutoring to be a great way to help others, but he didn’t realize how much he would get from it. “The first perspective is the aspect that focused on helping others out,” he says. “There’s that defining moment when you see the click when they get it. But then there’s the skills you gain and the ability to develop through training and practice of how to explain ideas to others. You learn the different strategies that help us express ideas to other people. That’s invaluable.”

The peer tutors and mentors invest so much time and energy in the training and are pleased that WPI supports them so strongly. “The more you can give them and develop them, the more pride they have in their work,” DeMur says.

For many of the students, simply continuing the cycle of assisting others is gratifying. “People helped me when I was frustrated,” says Slater who was tutored as a freshman. “I want to return the favor.”

– BY JULIA QUINN-SZCESUIL