Building bridges for student success

Building bridges for student success

As more people head back to campus, the Center for Academic Success (CAS) is seeking increased engagement from the students, faculty, and staff at Pierce College.  

CAS Director Crystal Kiekel stated that the center is dedicated to creating powerful learning environments that foster a growth mindset in an atmosphere of learning characterized by respect, support, and meaningful student engagement. 

“Our goal is to meet students where they are,” Kiekel said. “So, we’ve developed a whole range of services and modalities to make sure that we’re going to where the students are.”

The Center offers services that include on-site tutoring in person within the CAS, as well as Course embedded tutoring services in the classroom atmosphere through Canvas, commonly referred to as Course Embedded Tutors (CETs).

Additional services that are available through the CAS according to Kiekel, include the “paper drop-off” service, an in-person writing center with English professors and tutors on-site and ready to help students as well as a wide array of workshops. 

Philosophy professor and CET Liaison Mentor and Coordinator  Melanie McQuitty said that incorporating the services offered through the CAS will always enhance the classroom experience for both students and faculty. 

“The main misconception I get from instructors is that it’s going to create more work,” McQuitty said. “Instead, it’s going to make your job easier. The work that’s being submitted is going to be better and the students are going to develop a better understanding of it.”

Economics Professor and head softball coach Brett Marschall said that incorporating the use of CETs has helped him and his students immensely. 

“The CAS is one of those important ingredients that helps students reach their success. To have someone who’s taken the class literally alongside you as a resource that’s seeing the same material you are seeing in your class and can help you along the way is a tremendous value-added service. And all of this is free,” Marschall said. 

Kiekel said that the Center is and continues to strive toward building a community of care for the faculty, staff, and tutors so that they can then contribute to that community of care for the students.

“We’re all facing a lot of trauma from COVID. Life is hard. We’re all facing the risk of burnout and we’re all facing a lot of doubts about what’s going on,” Kiekel said. “We’re all in this together and we should be helping each other. The sooner we can recognize that we’re much stronger together and that we have a role and an agency in building a community of care here on campus, the better off we’ll be.”

With a current roster of 120 tutors, Pierce College is the largest employer of student workers on campus. However, Kiekel said that before the pandemic, the center had 180. 

Kiekel said she would like to see that number rise again and encourages people to consider joining the team.

According to Kiekel, some students seem to think that they wouldn’t be very good tutors and she would like to change that thought process. The requirements to apply include being enrolled in at least 12 units, a letter of recommendation from a professor and the tutor applicant must have earned an “A” in the course. 

“If you struggled in a class and you still succeeded and got an A, you’re going to be an amazing tutor,” Kiekel said.

According to Kiekel, the skills and abilities gained by being a tutor are very valuable. 

“Every one of those 120 people are students themselves and they’re learning about how learning works. They are role models and leaders as peers. There is tremendous growth happening when you become a tutor. You get training and experience and build leadership skills so it helps every level,” Kiekel said. 

Visit the CAS in person or contact the Center directly at