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Lives of Meaning and Purpose

A Helping Hand: Dedicated Peer Tutors Leave Lasting Imprint

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the fourth of a week-long series of profiles on members of the graduating Class of 2012, the College highlights five graduating seniors who volunteered their time as peer tutors for the Office of Academic Services and the Writing Center. Their contribution complements the Strategic Plan value “Enhancing Academic Excellence.”

Time after time, they answered the call for help.

When their fellow students needed extra help with a research paper, studying for an exam, or understanding a classroom lesson, peer tutors in the Office of Academic Services (OAS) and the Writing Center have steadfastly been there to encourage and bolster writing and study skills.

OAS peer tutors assess individual student needs, develop strategies to address academic problem areas, and help supplement classroom and textbook instruction — with an emphasis on the acquisition of permanent study skills.

A number of these peer tutors — members of the Class of 2012 — have achieved an astounding record of academic excellence and will soon embark on extraordinary post-graduate journeys.

Daniel Kowalsky ’12 (Guilford, Conn.), a biology major who served as a tutor for three years, chose to be a science tutor because “I wanted to make a difference in my own community.”

Poised to enroll in the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in the fall, Kowalsky admits that he wasn’t always the strongest science student. Similar to the guidance he lends his fellow students, Kowalsky said when he got to PC “I changed up my studying strategies and put that extra bit of effort in to make sure that I would be successful.”

Successfully transferring that mindset to tutees and seeing them understand the material is the best part of his job in the OAS, he said.

“Nothing comes close to the feeling of when a student comes in very unsure about the course material but leaves secure about what they’ve learned. They are so grateful for it,” he said. “I love being able to change someone’s outlook on a course, and I’m grateful when someone grasps a new concept because of the tutoring session. It makes it all worthwhile.”

With the hope of being a doctor, Kowalsky believes his time in the tutoring center has prepared him for what will be a life of service.

“Despite my busy schedule, I appreciate how tutoring taught me to focus on the student,” he said. “That’s important because my future career is all about service to others.”

Katherine "Skye" Hawkins ’12 (Norfolk, Mass.), a psychology major and Spanish minor, has also helped students in the tutoring center for the past three years — focusing on Development of Western Civilization, Spanish, psychology, and theology courses.

“Tutors are all passionate about assisting our fellow students,” said Hawkins, who will be studying prevention science and practice at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education this fall. “One of the joys of tutoring is when a tutee shouts across campus to let you know how well he or she did on the most recent exam or paper.”

With an increased focus on PC students writing well, Hawkins said improving writing skills — for course work and careers — has been emphasized in tutoring sessions. Enhancing writing skills also is a major objective of the revitalized Core Curriculum that will take effect this fall. Writing is one of the four learning proficiencies mandated in the Core.

“Being able to express our ideas, to share wisdom, or just show that we understand a subject takes skill,” she said. “In terms of a career, even if someone is a computer science major who prefers writing code to writing essays, he or she will need to have a clear cover letter and error-free résumé when applying for jobs. Good writing not only demonstrates that a person is well-educated, but it shows that he or she puts forth an effort in what was submitted.”

While helping other students write well has been one of Hawkins’ tutoring responsibilities, it has been a chief focus of Krystyna Marini ’12 (Monroe, Conn.), an English major and business studies minor, since she began tutoring in the Writing Center during her sophomore year.

“My first experience with the Writing Center was as a tutee during my freshman year,” she explained. “After having visited on numerous occasions, I was impressed by how helpful and friendly the tutors were. They made me want to get involved.”

Marini called it “rewarding to look in a tutee’s eyes when he or she has understood how to improve their paper.” But, as she prepares to attend the University of Connecticut School of Law in the fall, that’s only one of the rewards from her time as a tutor.

“Working as a tutor has improved my own writing tremendously, and as I begin law school, my ability to express myself clearly and concisely will prove all the more important,” she said.

She added, “A strong proficiency in writing can open many doors. Before my internship last summer with UBS Investment Bank, the hiring staff was hesitant to offer me an interview because I was not a business major. My supervisor later told me at the culmination of the internship that my ability to express myself in my cover letter and my articulate manner of speaking is what ultimately swayed them to offer me a summer position.”

Nicholas Sumski ’12 (Amherst, N.H.), a history major with minors in business studies and music performance, is another Writing Center tutor who has taken pride in knowing that he has helped his fellow students succeed in the classroom.

“I really enjoy helping students realize that they know more than they think they do,” he said. “I have had students return months later to tell me they were thrilled because they got an ‘A’ on their paper — a grade they thought was impossible to achieve. Hearing these success stories is rewarding because it’s evidence that I was able to help a struggling student achieve success.”

Since he began tutoring during his junior year, Sumski said he’s seen a dramatic improvement in his own writing, which he hopes to showcase in the Suffolk University Law Review as a soon-to-be member of the Suffolk University School of Law Class of 2015.

“You must be able to write well to be taken seriously in a professional environment,” he said. “Even if you do not enter a writing-intensive career, you are still going to need to communicate with people through written communication. The benefits of effective writing extend far beyond college.”

Andrew Connors ’12 (Charlestown, Mass.), a history major and business studies minor, became a tutor to classmates in a microeconomics course out of a favor to a faculty member. From that experience, he was hooked.

“I realized it was something I really enjoyed doing,” he said. “I know it can be frustrating to feel like you are behind in a class and the more everyone moves forward, the more you may feel that you are being left behind. Because of this, I made it a goal of mine to make people feel comfortable.”

Connors’ relationship-building efforts have been evidenced by the students who repeatedly have entrusted him with helping them improve.

“I have students who I have met with every week for the last two years,” he said. “I feel more connected to the Providence College community because I’ve been able to meet and become friends with students from all classes.”

A certified SAT tutor for The Princeton Review, Connors will be working after graduation as an account manager at Amica Insurance.

“I’ll be responsible for motivating and facilitating team efforts, building relationships, and organizing meetings — all of which I have done as a tutor,” he said. “I feel I have gotten so much more out of my education at PC because I’ve had the chance to work with so many people in the tutoring center.”

— Chris Machado

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