Tucked away near the main entryway of Coates Library, the Tiger Learning Commons (TLC), new this year, is the hub of academic support for students on campus. The TLC includes Student Accessibility Services, the Writing Center and the Academic Success office. There’s also a big, open study area that all students can walk in and use.
The staff and student workers of the TLC are dedicated to helping students succeed academically, but each person and each service accomplishes that goal differently. For example, accessibility specialist Alyse Gray Parker says that her job mostly involves overseeing the workings of the Testing Center.
When Gray Parker arrives around 8 a.m., the first thing she does is check both her and the testing center’s email. Most of the emails that the testing center gets are students’ reservations to take an exam. Right now, only students who are registered with Accessibility Services can take exams in the testing center, but Gray Parker hopes that soon TLC will have the personnel to allow any student to use the center for make-up exams.
After checking emails, Gray Parker checks in on her student worker — who is usually proctoring an exam — to make sure that everything is running smoothly. Depending on the day, she might have a meeting or two afterwards.
Throughout the day, Gray Parker rotates between proctoring exams, answering emails about the testing center, answering questions about accessibility services and dealing with any small emergencies that may arise.
“There’s always something that comes up, like a TLearn exam not being open, and so it’s like calling the professor and making sure that gets fixed, or a student has a question on the exam, so [I’m often] contacting the professors,” Parker said.
Gray Parker doesn’t have to deal with that by herself, though.
“Thankfully, I have great student workers, so they can do a lot of that without me at this point,” she added.
This interaction that Gray Parker has with her student workers and other students is one of her favorite aspects of her job.
“Since a lot of my job involves overseeing the testing center, I get to see the students all the time, and it’s just really cool to see how their semester is going. … Even working with my student workers, I really like being able to see how their college life is going. I finished grad school almost two years ago, so I feel like I can relate to them, especially the seniors that are looking to go into grad school,” Parker said.
One of these student workers is sophomore Simone Washington, a receptionist at the TLC. Washington usually works in two hour shifts for 10–13 hours a week. Her job mostly involves making sure the area is tidy and workable for students, keeping supplies stocked and communicating with the staff to let them know that their appointments have arrived.
“[We] just [do the] little things that aid in the overall success of the student here,” Washington said.
Of course, the TLC also aids overall student success in bigger ways. The writing center — one of the major components of the TLC — is entirely devoted to helping students write the best essays they can.
Jenny Rowe, the director of the writing center, explained that although the writing center is available to all students, first-years are the most common visitors.
“We see about 700 students [during the fall], and about 70 percent of those are [First Year Experience] students,” Rowe said.
Rowe herself teaches a section of the HUMA First Year Experience [FYE] and the Successful Life FYE during the fall, making the fall her busiest time of year.
“In the spring, more of my time is spent on administrative stuff; in the fall, it’s chaos,” Rowe said.
The “administrative stuff” that fills Rowe’s time during the spring involves training writing consultants, developing evening programming, helping students with writing assignments and presentations as well as the task that’s keeping her busiest right now: reading submissions for the FYE writing awards.
The writing awards serve as a common thread of FYE-related material across fall and spring semesters, which Rowe appreciates.
“The writing center job is really heavily involved in the FYE in the sense that so many students that we see are first-years, so it’s fun to get to know all the different sections of FYE, all the different assignments,” Rowe said. “I’m reading Being Young in Asia papers right now, [which is] a topic I didn’t approach at all in the fall, so that’s really fun.”
This exposure to new, constantly changing material is Rowe’s favorite part of her job.
“It puts me in contact with so many different family members and so many different students doing wildly different things. One day I might be reading and discussing a paper about Japanese cinema, and the next day I’m back to Homer, and then the next day I’m talking about crops and food deserts in rural America,” Rowe said. “The subjects and these students are just so vastly different and fun to engage with.”
The Tiger Learning Commons is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays, and 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. The writing center’s hours vary more widely and can be found on the Trinity website.