Excel Centers’ in-person services help students prepare for finals

Cambrea Schrank 

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     If there was ever a time in the semester to buckle down and get serious about studying, it is during finals week.  

     The Excel Centers at UCCS provide in-person and remote support for students: from one-on-one and group tutoring, mentoring students, helping with writing assignments and presentations, to providing a place on campus for students to relax or study and do homework. 

     All five Excel Centers have adjusted well to providing in-person services after being remote-only for the last three semesters, according to Jerry Phillips, executive director of the Excel Centers and director of the Excel Science Center.  

     “Two of the Centers, Writing and Communication, still maintain robust remote services as well as in-person. Having all five Centers open to students is very important to us, since in addition to providing help with many courses across the curriculum, the Centers provide a place for students to get a free cup of coffee, study, meet friends, do homework, or just sit and relax,” Phillips wrote via email.  

     “Data we have collected over many years shows that students who visit us, and not just for help, do better in their classes by up to one letter grade.”  

Students working in the Excel Science Center. Photo by Megan Moen.

Mathematics Center  

     Jenny Dorrington, director of the Excel Mathematics Center, said that tutoring services are available in person and virtually on a drop-in basis.  

     According to Dorrington, if a student contacts the center through Teams, a tutor will create a meeting and work with the student there.  

     The Excel Mathematics Center is also offering Peer-Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) in person. “These are small group study sessions that focus on a single course and are led by a student that has taken the course previously and done well in it,” Dorrington wrote via email.  

     “Since we are in person, we are also able to offer coffee and tea, and the community that comes from being together with other people,” Dorrington said. 

    Dorrington said that the center will most likely have at least one event in the spring. “Our tutors and PASS Leaders will continue to reach out to students in their math classes and we’ve started doing workshops with GPS courses again,” she said. 

Writing Center 

     “We’re all very happy to be working with students in-person,” wrote Matthew Balk, director of the Excel Writing Center. “While we’re grateful to work with students in whatever medium works for them, there’s something about an in-person session that can’t be replicated on a screen.” 

     The Excel Writing Center is still offering online tutoring sessions (including online only evening hours Monday-Thursday). According to Balk, these hours will be expanded the week before finals.  

     “We want to remind [students] to practice self-care during the last few weeks of the semester. Make sure you give yourself time to complete your papers, get some feedback, and don’t put everything off until the last minute!” Balk said.   

Communication Center  

      According to Vickie McCoy, interim director of the Excel Communication Center, UCCS’ Communication Center is the only university level communication center in Colorado with a peer tutor training program that is certified by the National Association of Communication Centers.  

     “The Excel Communication Center staff have adjusted to returning to campus just fine. We have a few new tutors, and they are all excited to be fully trained and assisting students!” McCoy wrote via email.  

     According to McCoy, since at least 2015, the Excel Communication Center has offered online tutoring services. 

     “The big difference this semester is that we have added a Virtual Tutor scheduling option which allows students who seek virtual appointments to schedule them with a designated tutor,” she said.  

     “All Excel Centers offer peer tutoring in their area of expertise, and the academic support offered by the Excel Centers gives a competitive edge to UCCS students and graduates who want to improve their interpersonal communication skills, understanding of mathematics, learn a new language, understand chemistry, or APA and other various writing other styles,” she said. 

     The Excel Communication Center is located in Columbine Hall room 312.  

     “We always offer the Center as a semi-quiet study space that offers a computer lab, PawPrints printer, and 8 flavors of Keurig coffee. We are planning a big spring semester event, stay tuned to our social media for that information!” McCoy said.  

     Both in-person and virtual tutoring appointments can be scheduled online using their scheduler at https://uccs.mywconline.net

Languages Center  

     According to Jesse Perez, the interim director of the Excel Languages Center, the Languages Center is operating primarily in-person with virtual tutoring sessions available upon request.  

     “The Languages Center has offered remote tutoring sessions since long before the pandemic so having to pivot back and forth has been seamless. What will take hard work is maintaining community and belonging as the pandemic persists,” Perez wrote via email. 

     He said, “While the pandemic disrupted our norm, we have maintained a positive and optimistic outlook. We continue to focus on creating a comfortable and inclusive environment for language learners so students can successfully maintain and further develop their language skills with minimal disruptions.” 

     Perez said that a silver lining throughout was being able to engage with students that had never visited the center before and were drawn to the convenience of remote services.  

     “In addition to maintaining high quality services during a pandemic, a couple top priorities for this year have been outreach and reviving the community vibe we are known for,” Perez said.  

     “Despite the impacts of COVID-19, in partnership with the Languages and Cultures department, we were recently able to host one of the most successful outreach events in Center history. We had over 200 visits from UCCS students and welcomed close to 200 high school students who are learning languages in local schools,” he said. 

     Perez continued, “We recognize that there are many UCCS community members that we have not been able to engage with due to the pandemic. We plan to find more creative ways to engage our community.”