How to win at your first semester of college—and beyond

By Ashley A. Williams

How to win at your first semester of college—and beyond

By Ashley A. Williams
The Camner Center for Academic Resources offers a multitude of resources for every UM student.

With the start of a new semester comes new challenges and courses to conquer. Whether a first-year or upperclassman, the Camner Center for Academic Resources is the place to go when you need help navigating through your undergraduate academic career. 

The Camner Center offers free tutoring from peer tutors in nearly all subjects and disability services for those who need accommodation and support. The center also provides one-on-one support by trained learning specialists to help develop the skills needed to achieve success in their academic careers. 

Associate Director Roopa Dominguez and Assistant Director Kiaira McCoy share more about the services offered under each umbrella. 

Tutoring Services

A core component of the center is the Peer Tutoring Program. Each semester, McCoy recruits and interviews over 100 student tutors. Once selected, tutors go through a training and orientation process to be able to provide the best instruction to those seeking help. The peer tutoring program is certified by the College Reading and Learning Association.

“We actively recruit for students who have made an A- or better and have at least a 3.0 GPA,” McCoy said.  “All of our tutors have taken the courses. They know the professors, they know the style of exams and what’s expected. So, not only are they able to help with the knowledge aspect of it, but also a little bit of mentoring as well. I think that those three things is why it’s so important and why students like it so much.” 

Many of the peer tutors are surprised to learn that the job is a paid position.

“So many [students] come in like: ‘I just want to volunteer’, but I’m like no, this is a paid position,” McCoy said. “For many students this is their first job.”

Josh Dughman, a senior architecture major, has worked his way up the ranks and is now one of four lead tutors for the office. Not only does he enjoy giving back to the UM community through service, but he is proud to be helping others pass their courses. 

“Ever since I became a lead tutor, it has helped me develop my leadership skills,” Dughman said. “I feel like I have helped a lot of people—which is always a good feeling. I love the praise but I make sure they know that I just helped get them there.”

Dughman also helps with general office functions and orientating new and existing tutors.

Recently, the center launched a collaboration with the Otto G. Richter Library and other UM departments that is housed in the library's Learning Commons. This enterprise provides a co-space for students and tutors to meet aside from the Whitten University Center headquarters. 

“It’s a coordination of academic support services across campus,” McCoy said. “It’s also become a great opportunity for our tutors to work in the evenings there.”

Pro tip: At the end of each semester, the tutoring service offers large group final exam reviews for the most requested courses.

Disability Services

The Office of Disability Services (ODS) provides academic provisions to make sure students with disabilities are able to access and participate fully in the opportunities offered at UM. ODS staff members, including Dominguez, work collaboratively with students to provide equal academic opportunities for all students enrolled at the U. 

“Students who require accommodations will submit documentation along with a request form and then it goes through a review process,” Dominguez said. 

Note-takers, or access to a shared copy of class notes, may be used for students who are visually impaired, hearing-impaired, mobility-impaired, and students with learning disabilities.

“For note-taking we recruit volunteers,” Dominguez said. “We are always looking for students who are interested. If they do it for the semester they receive 25 hours of community service and a gift.”

Learning Specialists

The Center also provides the support of trained learning specialists to undergraduate students who are experiencing difficulty transitioning into the University. 

“Students can schedule a free-of-charge one-on-one appointment to meet with one of our Learning Specialists,” Dominguez said. “They work with students on time management, organizational skills, study strategies, test-taking plans.”  

Students are able to meet with a learning specialist up to eight times per semester. There are also academic workshops available for students. 

To request an appointment, visit the Camner Center for Academic Resources website.