Tutoring Transformation: Tutoring Center Evolves Into Center for Student Success

As of fall 2016, the Tutoring Center has transformed into the Center for Student Success (CSS), which provides students with in-person and online tutoring services, a writing studio, and more academic resources projected for the future.

The Tutoring Center, which was a stable resource at the college for at least three decades, lost its federally-funded grant about a year and a half ago, according to Dante Cantu, director of CSS. While this was a significant loss, he said the college “took a negative and turned it into a positive” by creating a more centralized learning center.

“We’re still in transition,” Cantu said. “I think students are going to love it.”

According to their website, CSS “promotes student learning, academic engagement, and timely degree completion through the coordination of tutoring, writing assistance, and holistic academic success programs.” The center currently offers peer tutoring, Writers’ Studio and STAR-NY Online Tutoring Service.

For peer tutoring, trained undergraduate tutors help peers in specific courses. Additionally, the STAR-NY Online Tutoring Service is a web-based tutoring program, a team effort of 19 SUNY schools, which students can sign up for online. The Writers’ Studio pairs developing student writers with a writing consultant to plan out assignments and work toward improving writing skills.

CSS’s new application process is one major change that aims to centralize each of these services and broaden the program’s reach. In the past, students were required to visit the center, located in the basement of the Old Main building, and fill out a written form to apply. Now, all students can complete the CSS application on my.newpaltz.edu to access these services.

Cantu explained that moving from a “tutoring center” to a “success center” also means adopting a model that is more actively involved in reaching out to students.

“No longer are we a learning center with only tutoring and writing support. We still have some of that, but we’re moving to a success model,” he said. “We’re really focusing on that first semester transition. That’s the transition that students need to make successfully.”

Cantu began his work at SUNY New Paltz, and therefore working toward CSS’s mission, in January of 2016. In the past, he has built a similar program at Mount St. Mary College, and he has a very clear vision of where he wants New Paltz’s center to go. This includes tutor training, which is already underway, and academic coaching, which should be available by next semester and will be aimed toward first-year students.

He stressed that CSS is not only beneficial to those who needs guidance or tutoring, but for undergraduate students to build leadership skills through tutoring. When Cantu trains tutors, he teaches them to listen to their peers, adapt to diverse learning styles, and practice inclusive learning. These are all critical thinking and leadership qualities that will serve students well when they enter the workforce, he said.

The academic coaching program, projected to start in the spring, will aid freshman and transfers, as well as veteran and adult students, to form a plan of action for their time in college. While these are the groups that the program is primarily focused toward, all students are eligible. It will work with the individual to improve study habits, organization, time management, and ultimately, create a unique plan that works for each student’s overall success.