Helping Students Gain Academic Superpowers

Helping Students Gain Academic Superpowers

Sam Mulberry is co-director of Bethel Academic Enrichment and Support Center (AESC) and teaches in the department of history, philosophy, and political science. In these Q&As, she explains more about AESC and offers her top tips for students, and parents of students, to consider as they seek to develop the academic superpowers that will help them succeed in college.

What are Bethel’s AESC goals and how are they achieved?

The primary goal of AESC is to help students become successful independent learners. We do this by offering various forms of academic support: walk-in tutoring labs, academic advising, and one-on-one peer tutoring. All of these services are intended to help students not only be successful in their current courses, but also develop the study skills that will help them be successful in future courses and beyond.

Describe your role with AESC. How does your experience equip you for your job there? What do you enjoy most about it?

I serve as co-director of AESC along with Professor of Psychology Ruth Nelson. In addition, I teach in the department of history, philosophy, and political science and am one of the course coordinators for Bethel’s Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) course. At AESC, I serve as one of five faculty academic advisors who meet with students to teach study skills and time management, and coordinate tutor liaisons. I am always excited to work with students who are in the process of learning how they learn best. It is always rewarding to see students as they begin to develop the skills, abilities, techniques, and disciplines that work best for them. It’s like watching them begin to develop their academic superpowers.

What are the most common concerns of students seeking help from AESC and how are they addressed?

I think the most common concern is time management. This is especially true for students who are transitioning: from high school to college, from one major to another, from freshman to upper-level courses, etc. As students make transitions like these, often the nature of academic work is bound to change as well. For example, if you think about the typical high school senior, he’s a very busy person, but he’s usually busy in a very structured way. They are in class eight hours a day. They have club meetings, sports practices, and work and family commitments. In short, your time is highly scheduled and structured by all of these things. If you think about the typical college freshman, they are also very busy people, but the nature of their activity is very different. They are likely to be in class only fifteen hours a week. They have a lot of academic work to do outside of class, and they have a lot of unstructured time to complete this work. First-year students often have a hard time managing these tasks and time. At AESC, we love working with students to help them explore and discover the time management techniques or tasks that are most effective for them.

A hallmark of Bethel is a commitment to academic excellence. How does AESC help support student success in an academically rigorous environment?

AESC helps support students’ academic success by working directly with students to try to develop the specific supports they need and by helping those students work toward academic independence. We realize that no two students are the same, so we take the time to get to know them and determine what type of support might be most effective for them. In this process, we are also in communication with the student’s faculty to assess what areas and types of support they think might be most effective. As a team (student, teacher, and academic advisor), we work together to implement the best type of support for that student.

How can parents better support their child’s academic success at Bethel?

The best way for parents to support their children’s academic success is to have regular communication with them about their classes. Take a genuine interest in the classes your student is taking and what they are learning. Ask them what they are reading and what they are discussing in class. Ask them about upcoming exams, papers, and projects. Establishing regular open communication about academics early on can make it easier for the student to express when things are going well and when they may be starting to struggle. If they start to express concerns or difficulties in their classes, encourage them to contact their teachers and visit AESC.

What are your top suggestions for ways students can prepare for academic success at Bethel?

  1. Communicate well. From the beginning of the semester, get to know your professors and at least a few people in each of your classes. Creating these lines of communication early will help you build a support structure in your classroom long before you need it. When you have questions, ask them. All Bethel teachers have office hours where you can come in and ask questions, or you can meet with your teacher directly after class. Don’t let your questions go unanswered. Also, remember that communication is not just about what you say, but also how you listen. Pay attention to communications from your teachers, teaching assistants, and other Bethel offices. Check your email and Bethel PO Box regularly. These are the main ways that Bethel will communicate important information to you.
  2. Learn to manage your time. Every successful person does it differently, but every one of them does it. Develop a system for how you keep track of what you need to do and when you plan to do it. This is not something you have to do on your own. AESC is here to help you develop a system that works for you.
  3. Realize that there is no substitute for dedicated time. Really learning something well takes time. Reading takes time. Solving math problems takes time. Struggling with complicated ideas takes time. Writing well takes time. The general idea is that for every credit a course is worth, you should expect to spend two to three hours outside of class studying to really learn the material. Don’t let yourself and your learning down by finding ways to spend that time. That dedicated time is where most deep and lifelong learning comes from. Being a student with a full-time academic schedule is a full-time job. Treat it like a full time job.

Is there anything else you think is important to know about the Bethel AESC?

Students should only check the AESC office (HC324). If you need academic support, come to AESC. If you have doubts, contact AESC. If you want to learn to be a better student, come to AESC. And if you want to be part of providing academic support by working as a paid tutor, come to AESC.