The Advising Resource Center - A Hidden Treasure for Tech Students, July 22, 2008

By Roger Ranteria

SOCORRO, N.M., July 22, 2008 – The Advising Resource Center at New Mexico Tech provides students with a variety of free academic support services ranging from tutoring, counseling and workshops – intended to improve students’ overall experience.

Located in Fidel Student Services Center on the second floor, the Center is home to the Writing Center, study areas, and a place to rest and relax. The Center administers the Freshman First-Year Experience class, operates the Learning Communities jointly with the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, and oversees advisor major changes for all students.

“Students are encouraged to use these services since they are provided by the school to support academic progress towards graduating from Tech,” said Elaine DeBrine-Howell, director of the Advising Resource Center. “They are free for students.”

This year in the fall, the three Freshman First-Year Experience courses will be combined with major-specific Learning Communities. These communities feature two general degree requirements in English and science, and the freshman seminar.

“We’re excited about the new communities,” said DeBrine-Howell.

Additionally, this fall, the chemical engineering section of Freshman First-Year Experience will become part of the new introduction to chemical engineering class — Futures in Chemical Engineering: ChE 189 — to replace Engineering Science 110 for chemical engineering majors, which is the standard freshman introduction to engineering science. The combination with the lab provides supplemental instruction geared towards freshmen.

The Freshman First-Year Experience seminar is an elective credit course which is recommended, but not required for freshmen, unless required for their major. Students who attend the program develop superior study skills, healthier lifestyles, better test-taking skills and more efficient study habits.

Additionally, peer facilitators in the First-Year Experience course guide freshmen through the adjustments from high school to college during the first semester, helping them integrate into academic and social communities.

Peer facilitators who instruct the seminars are experienced and successful Tech students who have attended Tech for at least two years. They are a valuable resource to help other students succeed.

“They’ve been there, done that, and survived Tech,” said DeBrine-Howell. “Who better to know than them?”

Freshmen who participate in the seminars all get a survival kit, including the seminar textbook, writing utensils, stress-free snacks and fun reading material.

The Center also holds tutoring sessions for freshmen and sophomore core introductory classes in physics, chemistry, math, engineering, and computer science. Depending on interest, tutoring is also available for upper-level courses in science or engineering.

DeBrine-Howell said, “It’s a relaxed atmosphere and a place to recharge.”

Tutors are selected based on academic success and recommendation of their department chair. Peer facilitators are selected based on their GPA, leadership qualities and interpersonal skills.

In the fall, the Center will hold a workshop for international students, explaining what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, and hold new faculty training in advising students. Training includes communication, leadership and mentorship.

“Students are looking more and more toward having a mentor,” DeBrine-Howell said.

Faculty advisors are the first to know if students are struggling with classes and can reverse the trend once the signs are noticed. They can refer students to the various services that the Center provides. The goal of new faculty training is to focus on student-faculty relations by encouraging faculty to communicate in an approachable and engaging way. Through all its services, the Center aims to improve retention.

“We try to meet the needs of students, and if we can’t help them, we find someone who can,” DeBrine-Howell said. “Students are welcome to come in and get the support that they need.”