Learning Commons “doesn’t expect” finals week influx

Sarah Doiron

With finals week quickly approaching, Assistant Director of the Learning Commons Bernard Grindel does not expect a significant increase in students coming to the Learning Commons for help.

There is a steady demand across the entire semester for tutors and not just during finals week, Grindel said.

He also said not many students come to the Learning Center for their first time during finals week, but it does happen.

“While coming to the Learning Commons for help with finals can be beneficial, I think all of our services work best when students are using them to prep from earlier on in the semester than just trying to make a last ditch effort at the end,” he said.

The Learning Commons, located in the Arnold Bernhard Library, is a resource available to students who are struggling in their academics or just need academic guidance.

Grindel said there is also a peer fellow program available in the Learning Commons for students taking difficult gateway courses.

Peer fellows are students who hold break out study sessions and provide assistance for students struggling in a specific course, according to Academic Specialist and coordinator of the peer fellow program Tracy Hallstead.

Hallstead said peer fellows are asked to sit in the class and take notes on what is being taught by the professor in order to better understand what students are learning in class.

Grindel said all peer fellows and peer tutors are students who took a specific course and received an A or A- as a final grade.

Tutoring appointments can be made at the front desk in the Learning Commons two weeks in advance, according to Grindel.

Grindel said it is important that students know tutors take a major reduction in hours in order to help to study for their own finals.

“Finals week is much of a crunch for [peer tutors] as it is for any students they are working with,” he said. “The tutors need time for themselves as well and finals schedules get messed up for everybody because exams times are different meaning their availability will be different.”

Senior Elizabeth Helenek has been a tutor at the Learning Commons for a little over a year. She said she does not work during finals week because she is stressed out over her own finals.

“I usually work 11 hours a week, but during finals week I [purposely] don’t work so that I can focus on my finals,” she said.

For tutors such as junior Clare Michalak, it is easier to work during finals week.

“Most of my finals are project based,” she said. “Because of this I can usually alter my schedule ahead of time so that I don’t get too overwhelmed. There are some times when my schedule will get a little full but usually I can alter my schedule around my own studies.”

Grindel said there are not always tutors available for specific courses. When that happens, he said it is important to use the front desk to look for tutors who may be able to help or meet with full time staff who can help you work through what you need help on.

“We don’t always have the exact match, but more often than not we will be able to find a tutor that can speak to the issues a student has,” he said.

Grindel said it is important for students to be prepared when meeting with tutors by knowing what concepts they struggle with before the session.

“When we have a student come in with a study sheet that has all the content from an entire semester and it’s not filled out, you only have an hour, we know there is going to be disappointment there.”

Tutors are not the only type of academic support you can receive at the Learning Commons. Academic Specialists, such as John Goepfrich, are also available to help teach students the metacognitive skills needed to prepare for finals.

“I mostly help students with non-content issues,” Goepfrich said. “I can’t teach you chemistry, but I can teach how to learn chemistry and develop skills to help you be successful in that course.”

Goepfrich said he sees students who need help with time management, testing strategies, the writing process and learning new ways to study material.
“Nothing is prescribed. We know things that work for most people but it doesn’t work for everyone,” he said. “Everyone is a different learner, so our conversations focus more on how students learn best and using that to help them when they study.”

Goepfrich said he sees a wide range of students, from students who are doing well and want to maintain their grade, to students who are struggling with their academics. He said anyone can make an appointment with him at the front desk if they need someone to talk to about academic advice.

“It’s important for students to know that we are not the resource room from high school,” he said. “We know you all are very smart – that’s how you get in the door. But sometimes you just have to look at the material a different way and that is why we are here to help.”


For many students, such as sophomore Rachel Moran, the Learning Commons is a great place to go when you need help.


“I always felt more confident leaving [the Learning Commons],” she said. “I definitely recommend going to the Learning Commons for students who are struggling in a subject or just need some clarification.”

Hallstead said students need to understand studying is not about using your short term memory, but instead your long term memory in order to make connections to understand the material.

“Learning happens through the persistence instead of just absorbing something at the last minute because you are being tested on it,” she said.

Goepfrich said it is important for students to know the Learning Commons is always a resource that will be available for students who need help.
“It’s important that students remember that we don’t give grades,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how ugly it is, we don’t judge you or your work. We’re only here to help you maintain the place you’re at or help you dig yourself out of a hole.”