A-LEC responds to student concerns

Courtesy of the A-LEC Facebook page

SMU freshman Hayley Halliburton was recently in a time crunch to get help on her paper at the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC). Halliburton questioned why it took so long to receive help.

“I had to wait an hour for help on my four-page paper,” said Halliburton.

Halliburton isn’t the only one that has some concerns about the A-LEC. Other students say they have problems with language barriers, and others want more one-on-one tutoring made available. But some students, like sophomore Andrew Appleby, have no problem with the facility or its tutors.

“The staff at the A-LEC is very helpful and I always feel more prepared leaving the A-LEC than I did before going in,” said Appleby.

Sue Bierman, director of the A-LEC, sat down on a cold afternoon recently to address these concerns.

“I like hearing what students have to say because that helps us help them,” said Bierman.

The A-LEC is located on the corner of Ford Stadium. It offers tutoring in many subjects for all undergraduate students free of charge. Many of the tutors that work in the A-LEC are juniors and seniors whose grades qualify them to be a mentor for students coming in for help.

Courtesy of SMU

Bierman’s advice to Halliburton and others worried about a long wait is to remember that the A-LEC is open to all undergraduate students, so there is bound to be a wait for students seeking writing help. Bierman said the A-LEC knows when professors assign papers during the semester. Because they know students will be seeking help on those specific weeks, they try to plan accordingly by putting more tutors on the schedule.

“The center tries its best to accommodate all students and is very mindful of the students’ time,” said Bierman.

There are two types of writing assistance at the A-LEC. One is through its writing center, which is staffed by faculty from the English department and takes students by appointment. The other option is for students to seek help from writing tutors, who are upperclassman trained by the A-LEC.

A common misconception among students is that the A-LEC tutors and professors are there to edit their papers. Bierman made it clear that the A-LEC staff does not edit student’s papers.

“What the writing center faculty and writing tutors do is help students focus on where weak areas exist in their drafts,” said Beirman. “They help the student find these areas and together, find options on how to better express and clarify thoughts.”

SMU sophomore Bari Kesner said she goes to the A-LEC often for help. Her concern is the language barrier between her and some of the A-LEC tutors.

“Some of the tutors are so hard to understand because they are international,” said Kesner.

Bierman’s advice for Kesner and others is simply to ask for a different tutor if language is a problem. Bierman again stressed how important it is for students to voice their needs.

SMU sophomore Thomas Thayer said he prefers going to the A-LEC for one-on-one tutoring rather than group tutoring.

“I benefit more from the A-LEC when working with a tutor individually rather than working with a tutor in a group session,” said Thayer.

Bierman said if a student knows he or she works better individually with a tutor, to not feel pressured to join a group tutoring session.

Bierman said the center is focused on communication with faculty, students, and with other staff colleagues, “so we don’t change what’s working and see in what areas we need to try new things.”

If students have any concerns or suggestions for the A-LEC, contact Bierman at sbierman@smu.edu.

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