The University of Tulsa fosters a community of students who are unafraid to ask compelling questions, address complex problems and engage with diverse opinions, but that is not an easy task. At the heart of the TU community, the Center for Student Academic Success (CSAS) ensures that each student is not only supported academically but also feels like an essential part of the TU family.
The director of CSAS, Tawny Rigsby, is prepared for the fall semester. “Our staff has been working extremely hard this summer and collaborating with all our partners to get things ready for students,” she said. “On average, 87% of students who work with CSAS for academic success coaching earn successful semester GPAs.”
From physical to social disabilities, CSAS aims to maximize students’ independence and ability to fully participate in TU’s curriculum and community. CSAS’s social opportunities program, for example, is tailored to students with autism spectrum and social disabilities. Assistant Director for Student Academic Success Dave Kobel said, “We will be providing a space for such students to interact socially as well as a weekly group discussion on life skills topics such as dating, career preparation, hygiene and interacting with professors.”
With community in mind, CSAS organizes small groups for students to work through challenges such as difficulty communicating with a professor or problems with a roommate, but not every group focuses on such serious issues. The social opportunity groups arrange pizza parties, movie nights, yoga classes and football tailgates to create entertaining and relaxed settings to bond with new friends.
In October, CSAS will open its new sensory room in which students who feel overstimulated will be able to ground themselves. “The space will provide a calm, safe, and comfortable environment with muted tones, low lighting, soothing textures and patterns, and sensory-focused items such as fidget spinners, stress balls and coloring books,” Kobel described.
Discuss accommodations with CSAS by making an appointment.
More than tutoring
Whether students are struggling to solve for X in algebra or have specific accommodation needs for autism or social anxiety, CSAS is their support system. Innovative and inclusive, CSAS is constantly updating its tutoring, workshops and academic coaching to reflect best practices. Nick McMillan, a coordinator for student academic success, trains the tutors. He delves into topics like the lack of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “For example, there are lots of ways in which math tutoring can be a power struggle for different genders,” McMillan explained. “There are ways tutors can change their approach, use of language and their assumptions in order to make tutoring sessions more inclusive.”
Academic success coaching is a step up from occasional tutoring sessions. Once a week, coaches meet one-on-one with a student to establish a personalized academic success plan. Topics may include note-taking strategies, test anxiety, motivation, time management and more. Women’s and gender studies senior Danielle Hegdale said, “As my carpal tunnel symptoms got challenging, I took a shot and got an appointment just to see what was possible about making class and testing easier for me. CSAS has been such a great help by dramatically reducing the added stress of class and testing.”
Using metacognitive strategies like thinking aloud or reflective writing, McMillian teaches students to evaluate the way they learn. By assessing their study habits, students become mindful of successful techniques. “There is also research done on a growth mindset,” he added. “It’s based on the idea that intelligence isn’t a fixed thing. It’s not something you’re born with and it is not the limits of your abilities.”
“You are not alone.”
DropGuard is a digital program where faculty and staff take a proactive approach to reporting students of concern to CSAS. From missing class to behavioral issues, the early alert system prevents students from falling through the cracks. Kobel explained, “Our staff coordinates with other offices on campus to reach out to these students and try to help them get the support they need, whether it’s tutoring, academic success coaching, counseling or connecting them to other campus or community resources.”
Abby Boehning, another coordinator for student academic success describes the CSAS message – “You are not alone.” Sometimes students fear a stigma associated with asking for help, but learning to self-advocate and thrive within a community is, in itself, an education.
“Humans were made for connection with others, and connectedness is how we do our best,” Boehning said. “When you come to CSAS, we are connecting you with services and people who can push you and help you to do your best. We understand that the struggle is real. We understand that things come up and life happens. We are here to guide you through that process when life happens.”
Don’t suffer from anxiety over classroom material or struggle with meeting friends, reach out to CSAS.