Academic Center for Excellence supports student achievement


Anjel-Ali Ormond & Helaina Ballou, Executive Editor & Staff Writer

Housed in the Johnston Memorial Library on the 2nd floor, the Academic Center for Excellence allows for students at Virginia State University to thrive. Reporters sat down with several of the staff of ACE to find out more about what the center offers students.

Can you explain what the ACE department is and what it offers to the students?

ACE seeks to empower students to find everything that they need to be successful at the university. We are geared around student success and whatever we can provide to help a student be successful. This could deal with academic coaching, academic mentoring, it also could be tutoring. But it is our mission to help students and make sure that they are successful and can achieve their academic dreams. – Alexis Brooks-Walter, Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment Management

If I was a student and wanted to receive academic coaching, how would I reach out to receive that?

Students can reach out in a number of ways. They can do a drop-in on the second floor. When students arrive on the second floor, there are two outreach liaisons that are present and can receive drop-in students. They can also send emails to the individual staff members that they know. But the most popular and effective method is the use of the Navigate Student App. That provides on-demand opportunities for students to schedule an appointment in real-time, from anywhere in the world. – Delano Douglas, Academic Intervention Coach

Why should students go to the ACE department? What would students gain from utilizing ACE services?

We realize that many students come to campus and are unsure. They want to go to college and they think about higher education but they are unsure of what they want to do, or if they are in the right major. A lot of the times they are a little unsure about how to be academically successful while they’re in school, and really trying to navigate their transition from high school to college. ACE provides all of those touchpoints. We have tools and surveys they can utilize to figure out if they are in the right major and if they are doing something they are passionate about. A lot of times they have questions about how to study for a certain class. ACE can provide study skills, help them identify how to write notes, connect them to a peer tutor that can actually help them, or connect them to our online 24-hour tutoring services, SmartThinking. As far as advisement goes, there are a lot of questions about how internships can fit in, how certain classes fit in, should they take a summer class, should they take a winter class, and actually being able to talk to an academic advisor can help them. We help students figure out how to navigate and put their classes in the right semester to make sure they are able to matriculate and get out of school in four years. – Alexis Brooks-Walter

One analogy that I like to use to describe our process is what athletes and/or fitness enthusiasts may get from a personal trainer. ACE can provide that. Athletes of course have their programs and coaches that they are accountable to, but we like to provide that individual touchpoint interaction that may clarify any questions that they may have. So take a proactive outreach standpoint, whereas in some areas, departments of support say “come to us,” we try to be a little more forthcoming. We try to anticipate and get out in front of the students to provide some of the things they may need to be successful. A lot of it is data-driven. Not only do we use research on some of the current trends in higher education, but also we use the actual data in real time from the classes to figure out what needs to be done. For example, Ms. Ellenwood uses a lot of the student data on a daily basis to figure out where there is help needed in the university and what classes/students need attention. It’s a very systematic approach that utilizes both the student input and the data and some of the current higher-educational trends to meet students needs. – Delano Douglas

What is the SmartThinking tutoring service and how can students use that to get help?

SmartThinking is one of our online platforms that students can use via Blackboard. All enrolled students from freshmen to seniors have access to ST and are able to search by course availability (not necessarily their VSU course) and by topic as it relates to what they may need assistance in… It is a 24-hour service where tutors can give you immediate feedback or it may be a 24-hour return feedback for papers. It is definitely a resource that students are able to utilize if they are unable to come in for a peer-tutoring service session.

Our writing center is also housed in ACE on the 2nd floor. It is available to students across the university to assist them with their writing needs. We have a full-time professional writing tutor. – Joyce Ellenwood, Associate Director for ACE

Are students able to be tutored by other students? What is peer-tutoring?

We typically have students that have already passed that class with an ‘A’ or perhaps even a ‘B’ available, and a lot of times they are honor students or work study students. They make themselves available via their schedule to tutor courses. We do have a list of courses that we offer tutoring for, and they are usually the courses that first-year students would take. We do have some upperlevel math and science courses, but the courses are typically first-year student courses. – Delano Douglas

Where is the writing center located?

It is located in the Strategic Learning section of the 2nd floor. There are four sections of the library on the 2nd floor that are demarcated by different columns. So Strategic Learning would house that.

We want to be inviting students to study in a framework that is relatable to them. Sometimes everybody taking notes and reviewing in silence is not always their learning style. That is why we are open to invite students in to the 2nd floor of the library. And every now and then, depending on the day of the week, it’s pretty busy. Students are here. They are identifying their ownership of spaces. They are bringing their friends, lunch, groups, etc. just to corral up on the 2nd floor. And as the staff gets to know the students, it becomes a spot where students realize that I’m here to study, but “I can also get help with this too.” So we want to offer ACE to be a central hub where students can come to get help. – Delano Douglas

Any advice you may have for students?

Manage your time well. There is time to get your work done and have fun. Utilize the daytime hours to your advantage. – Delano Douglas

Support is here. We are students to know that help is here, even if it is just to ask a question related to their class, we want to be able to point them in the right direction. We want students to know help is here. Just show up so that we can determine exactly what your help might need to be. – Joyce Ellenwood