Super Tutors

Western Engineering News | April 17, 2012
By Heather Travis

Anish Naidu may not have been the one to write the tests, but because of him fellow Western Engineering students are making the grade.

Naidu, a second-year Mechatronic Systems Engineering student, is one of the faculty’s four Super Tutors, a program started in September 2011 to provide support and academic mentorship to first-year students.

The Super Tutor program allows top ranking upper-year student volunteers to work with first-year students on their courses during weekly drop-in sessions.

“I feel that my efforts have paid off when I see the students whom I have helped become more confident of their knowledge of the course, and consequently perform well in the tests,” said Naidu. “It is the pleasure of helping others that motivates me the most.”

Naidu knows what challenges first-year students are experiencing, having just lived through it a year ago. It is this insider knowledge that makes him a better tutor.

“Even after the tutorials and the office hours of the professors, many students still retain some doubts about the course material,” he notes. “I feel the students are more open and comfortable working with other students and they benefit from the friendly environment we Super Tutors are able to provide.”

“First-year is intensive and is also a big step for students transitioning from high school into university,” said Amarjeet Bassi, Associate Dean, Academic.

While tutors are common at universities, it is unique to have such a program at a faculty level, he said.

In its first year at Western, the small-scale program was well subscribed.

“It improves the first-year experience for students, as they see support being available for academics,” Bassi explains. “For the mentors, it offers them opportunities to enhance their leadership skills and the program could also develop long term networking opportunities when the students graduate.

“The students and mentors/tutors could potentially stay connected in upper years and even after they graduate.”

The tutors are selected based on overall excellence in academics to serve as role models. The program encourages tutors to develop leadership skills.

“We hope to continue to grow this program in the future towards our goals of offering an excellent common first-year experience in Western Engineering,” Bassi said.

Lauren Cuthbertson tutored younger students in math and science in high school, so when she was approached about the Super Tutor program, she jumped at the chance.

“The students come with a wide variety of questions from all their first-year courses,” Cuthbertson said. “Overall we try to create a friendly and safe environment where students feel at ease. There are never any dumb questions.”

The second-year Mechanical Engineering student also fields questions about her experience in Western Engineering.

“A major concern for many first-year students is deciding the right discipline for next year.  The students seem to like hearing more specifics about upper-year programs and what it is like - details that may not be mentioned by professors or in brochures,” she said. “I also try to coach the students on studying strategies.”

Cuthbertson enjoys sharing what she learned in first-year, including what worked and didn’t work in, in order to help others.

“First-year [students] are provided with many mentors, such as Sophs; this program is unique in that it specifically provides academic peer mentors for students,” she said.

In addition to Naidu and Cuthbertson, second-year Chemical Engineering student Helal Elkolaly and second-year Civil Engineering student Clarissa Luo are Super Tutors.


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.: Allison Stevenson
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