Eight things you need to know about the Center for Academic Excellence

student and tutor sit at table talking
Ghassan Abutouq, Professional Math Tutor, assists student on Monday afternoon in the Center for Academic Excellence.
A strong aroma of popcorn fills the stairwell of the Phail Wynn, Jr. Student Services Center on the Durham Tech Main Campus every Wednesday afternoon.

The trail stems from room 308, home to the Center for Academic Excellence and Popcorn Wednesdays, a student-friendly initiative started by Center Director, LaDelta Williams.

Though students receive more than just popcorn when they walk through those doors.

The Center, which opened in 1977 as the Learning Laboratory, also provides free drop-in tutoring, a computer lab, study areas, and testing center — all designed to improve student success.

According to Williams, more than 300 students utilize this resource every semester.

“Students need to have a place that’s low stakes, where it feels okay to grow as a student and have guidance along the way,” she said. “It’s a place where they can really understand what it is to be a student and put in the time and effort to learn the concepts they need to be successful.”

One of Williams’ overarching goals is to reduce the stigma around tutoring.

“A lot of times, students look at it as punitive, but we want to flip the script and let them know that it’s not about what you’re doing wrong,” she said. “You might have some areas of weakness, but that’s okay. We encourage students not to focus on the fact that they don’t know something but rather that they don’t know it yet. I believe very much in the power of yet, and this is the place where you meet your yet.”

two students studying at difference desksFor larger classes like math and English, it can be difficult for faculty to provide one-on-one help for all of their students, so Williams said the Center partners with faculty members to fill those gaps.

“Once we learn what the instructors’ expectations are, we can help translate,” she said. “Our tutors are like interpreters that translate information in a way that speaks to students’ different learning preferences. In order to do this effectively, we have to have strong partnerships with faculty.”

The Center also helps students beyond just tutoring.

“I feel like the Center is that piece of yarn that goes all the way through the tapestry,” she said. “We touch everything. We are the tutor, the counselor, the advisor, the friend, and the confidant. Being able to provide students with all of those resources is a good thing, and is much needed.”

Williams said the most rewarding part of her job is witnessing those moments when students grasp a new concept.

“Seeing the stress melt away as they start picking up concepts, and to know there is someone that really cares about them learning the material and cares about their success, it changes everything,” she said. “I love seeing students invested in learning and enjoying it.”

Here are eight things you need to know about the Center for Academic Excellence:

1) Locations and hours

  • Main Campus, Wynn Center, room 308
    Monday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
    Sunday: Closed
  • Orange County Campus
    Math: Wednesday, 10am – 2pm; room 224
    Chemistry: Monday, 2 – 6 p.m.; room 219
    Writing (for any subject): Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.; room 224

*Note: Schedules are subject to change due to the availability of tutors, so please check the website for up-to-date hours.

2) Expect small student-tutor ratios
Students can always expect either 1:1 or 1:3 student-tutor ratio, depending on the course. Writing and reading will always have 1:1 while math and chemistry average 3:1. Remaining subjects are, on average, 1:1.

3) Online tutoring is available 24/7
Upswing is a third-party, online tutoring service, originally headquartered in Durham, that provides free, unlimited 24/7 tutoring. Durham Tech students can login and begin tutoring sessions by using the same username and password as Self-Service. According to Williams, during the 2018-2019 academic year, 771 students used Upswing and the average tutoring session was rated 4.6 out of 5 stars. More than 4,000 sessions were conducted – an 8% increase from the year before.

4) Not on Main Campus? Not a problem.
Tutoring services are also offered at the Orange County Campus in math, writing, developmental math, and chemistry. Services are not currently available at other campuses, but students are always encouraged to use Upswing.

5) Transition Center
Formerly known as the Developmental Math Lab, the Transition Center provides embedded tutoring to students enrolled in MAT 003 (Transition Math) and ENG 002 (Transition English). The lab is located in the Collins Building, room 152, on Main Campus and on the Orange County Campus, room 224. Tutors are often available either before or after class to work with students.

6) Academic Alert
This refers to instructor-referred, appointment-based tutoring specifically for students enrolled in the following courses: ENG 002, ENG 011, ENG 111. MAT 003, MAT 010, MAT 110, MAT 043, MAT 143, MAT 052, MAT 152, MAT 071, and MAT 171. The advantage to Academic Alert tutoring is that the student has one designated hour of tutoring just for them, whereas drop-in tutoring might require a 30-minute wait or be disrupted by other students.

7) Popcorn Wednesdays
The Center on Main Campus gives away free bags of popcorn to students every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

8) Group study opportunities
There is plenty of space in the Center on Main Campus for students to study in groups. Students will have the option to ask tutors questions, if needed.

What others are saying
“To all of the tutors: Thank you for taking the time and patience to help me to achieve my educational goal.” – Lennette Reynolds, Student

“To all the tutoring staff: Thank you so much for providing vital services for our students’ academic success. Your job is an important piece of the puzzle. And thank you for all the popcorn!” – Adam DeSantis, College Liaison

919-536-7232 ext. 2404
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Contact Marcy W. Gardner, Coordinator for Content and Social Media, at gardnerm@durhamtech.edu

 student and tutor sit together at tablethree people smiling at camera holding popcorn