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By Eric Fergason
As another graduation season comes to a close, we find ourselves reflecting on students who have considered the SALT Center their “Home Base” during their tenure at the University of Arizona. We are proud to see students achieve this milestone and move on to the next phase of their lives, but they’ll certainly be missed. A few weeks ago, we took a nostalgic stroll through campus with 2007 Alumna, Amy Pozez (formerly Back), as she shared her SALT Center Story with us.
Amy attended a small, private high school that catered to her needs as a student who learns differently. When she began looking for colleges, she wanted an institution that would provide her with the same kind of academic support. Her high school gave her a list of universities with various support programs, and, after a few months, Amy found herself at the University of Arizona and enrolled at the SALT Center: “I came to the UA and the SALT Center because I knew I would get an equal amount of accommodations.” While Amy utilized the services provided by the SALT Center for all four years of her undergraduate career, she believes that the first few semesters really made a difference in her transition from high school to college, “It helped make the transition to such a big environment that much easier; it didn’t feel like I was coming to a school of 36,000. I had the SALT Center as my home base, I had my dorm…and everything else was kind of like white noise.”
As Amy continued her college career, she found that the communal environment fostered by the UA and the SALT Center motivated her to get involved, “I really wanted to go to a school with a football team. I just wanted a place with that enthusiastic atmosphere – that camaraderie.” She became more involved at the SALT Center, as well, advocating for it, and using her strengths to help others: “I became a Tutor, worked with the Admissions team, worked the front desk, and was generally very involved with the SALT Center.” Her deep relationship with the program was due, in large part, to the security that it afforded her: “It’s so easy to get involved, to want to stay in one place to do all of the things your supposed to do in life (like getting a job and volunteering), when you have a family-like atmosphere.”
One of the contributing factors to that close-knit environment was Amy’s relationship with her Strategic Learning Specialist, the SALT Center’s current Educational Technology Coordinator, Mary Beth Foster. “It was nice to have someone I could rely on, which is what Mary Beth was for me; she was a confidant, she was a cheerleader, she was a shoulder to lean on - she was everything.” Amy acknowledged that the education, training, and certifications earned by Strategic Learning Specialists at the SALT Center equip them to be an excellent resource for those who learn differently, but their ability to be a safe person by finding common ground with their students is what makes this relationship truly special: “Mary Beth and I were ‘freshmen’ together; it was her first year as a Strategic Learning Specialist. She related to me, and that helped me focus in on what was really important.”
The SALT Center team becomes a part of a student’s life as much as our students become a part of our history. Their time as a student, an Ambassador, a tutor, or any of the roles they might play has a profound impact on our program. All the while, they have highly-educated staff members helping facilitate their growth. On any given day, one might see an Admissions team member with a few Student Ambassadors preparing for a “Taste of SALT” presentation, or a Strategic Learning Specialist cracking jokes with their student as they wrap up an appointment. As Amy put it, “everyone is so interconnected; it’s hard to not to feel like they’re family.”
Amy received her undergraduate degree in Art History, with a minor in Marketing, and went on get her Masters in Elementary Education. She taught General Studies until her husband got a job in Phoenix. She spent that time focusing on her art: “I had a studio, so I just chilled and worked on my own art for a couple of years, which was really fun.” After the birth of their first child, Amy, her husband, and their children moved back to Tucson. She applied to be a substitute teacher at the school where she had previously taught. Instead, she became their new K-8 Art teacher.
After reflecting on the last few years, Amy had some thoughts to share with our newest college graduates: “You have to be open to possibility. You can’t pigeonhole yourself to the degree that you earned - you have to be flexible and figure out how you can apply your skills to whatever it is out there.” For incoming freshmen, she offered this advice: “Take advantage of the teacher’s office hours. You get a lot from those relationships.”
The SALT Center is so proud to call alums like Amy a part of our family, and we congratulate all of our graduating seniors as they join her. Thank you for your contribution during your time here; we look forward to celebrating all of your future accomplishments.
Class of 2008
UA degree: B.A. Media Arts
Current Residence: Beverly Hills, CA
Employer: Talent Management Firm
Position: Executive Assistant
Q: What did you find most beneficial about the SALT Center?
A: The sense of community and the support I received during my first two years of college. Personally, I was not prepared for college, and therefore, I had a difficult transition my first year. Throughout my first two years of college, a critical time of self-discovery, the SALT Center provided the necessary tools to guide me in the right direction and the resources to help me excel.
Q: What life lessons have you learned from your time at the SALT Center and as a professional?
A: My field is extremely callous, competitive and fast moving; you only have one shot. Professionals in the real world are going to have expectations of you. From my experience in the workforce, you cannot and should not use your learning disability as an excuse for mistakes. The SALT Center taught me how to be a self-advocate which gave me the confidence to overcome any obstacle. My time at the SALT Center.
If you would like to contact the SALT Center's Marketing Specialist, please call or email Eric Fergason.
Jennifer Hansen is a Strategic Learning Specialist at the SALT Center. We asked her a few questions to get to know her better and to learn more about her experience in this challenging and rewarding role.
What did you study in college?
I’m one of those classic students that experimented with different majors. Also, I was not a traditional student, as I worked my way through college. I was fortunate to be employed by a company that supported continuing education, and I did a variety of side jobs, from writing obituaries, to retail work, to restaurant work, to finally working within a marketing department of a large electronics firm. I started out as a pre-pharmacy major and landed in the School of Business via an indirect route. I eventually finished my degree, graduating from the UA with a B.S. in Business Administration, with a major in Marketing.
Where did you work before you joined the SALT Center as a Strategic Learning Specialist?
I worked at the SALT Center in several capacities before becoming a Strategic Learning Specialist (SLS). However, prior to working at the SALT Center, I worked in the employment industry as a recruiter and personnel specialist. I loved this work as it involved helping others and finding their strengths, and making a good match between employer and employee. For many years, I did extensive volunteer work with military spouses by taking part in support groups, being involved in leadership roles on steering committees, and working to make life better for families with loved ones who were deployed. I have also worked as a freelance writer, and I still earn a bit of money on the side by writing.
How did you learn about the role of Strategic Learning Specialist?
I worked at the SALT Center in a different area supporting students. I enjoyed the student contact that I had from this role, and had the goal of eventually becoming a SLS, so I was happy when the opportunity presented itself. It is a rewarding and challenging job.
Describe a typical Strategic Learning Specialist appointment - what do you talk about with students? Which learning strategies do you recommend most often?
No day is the same, and that is something that I thrive on. I like the fact that one student appointment could focus on time management techniques and the next could be setting up tutoring. Student needs set my agenda and we work from there. I hope that my students find me supportive and caring. I want to help students accomplish their goals.
What’s your favorite thing about being a Strategic Learning Specialist?
The best part of the job is forming relationships with students. It’s gratifying to see students make strides and gain confidence. It’s a privilege to be part of their educational experience.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of being a SLS is the pace of the day - before you know it, the day is over! Another thing I have to keep in mind is that each student has his or her own educational experience to claim or “own.” The SALT Center can provide tools and resources, but ultimately, the student accomplishes their daily academic work.
What affiliations/certifications have you obtained while working at the SALT Center?
I consider myself a life-long learner. I am currently working on my Masters degree in Education. The SALT Center supports professional development, and I enjoyed attending a “Learning & the Brain” conference earlier this year. I hope to attend more conferences and continue to develop as a professional.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I like to go on hikes at Sabino Canyon. I also enjoy day-trips (Bisbee is one of my favorite places to visit because of the history and the eclectic, artsy nature of the town). I like being with my family and friends. I’m good with home improvement tasks and I love tinkering around the house doing rehab projects. I like fixing things and figuring out how things work. I’ve discovered recently that I am good with tools and not afraid of a challenge.
Jennifer is a tremendous asset to our team. Her warmth, compassion, and encouragement make both students and staff feel at home here at the SALT Center. We are grateful for her bright smile, her cheerful disposition, and her commitment to students who learn differently.
Class of 2003
UA Degree: B.S. in Education/Special Education
Master’s Degrees: University of Pennsylvania, Clinical Social Work & Harvard Graduate School of Education, International Education Policy
Current Residence: Boston, Massachusetts
Employer: Lift Up Africa
Position: Director of Marketing and Programs
Q: How did the SALT Center play a role in your pursuit of two Master’s degrees?
A: The SALT Center helped me identify my learning patterns, and I took that skill set with me throughout my education at UPenn and Harvard. The SALT Center’s support provided me with the reassurance that I could redefine or work through any challenge. Whether through technology, a professor, or taking extra time, I knew there was a way to achieve my goals. The SALT Center gave me the skills to succeed and allowed for self-discovery and reflection.
Q: What words of advice would you like to share with current SALT students?
A: Reflect on the skill set that you are receiving at the SALT Center and know those skills will help you in all aspects of your life. The SALT Center is able to provide the necessary support and experiences for success in any career path. Therefore, take pride in your work and enjoy your experience at the SALT Center.
By Eric Fergason
If you walk by the Patricia A. Bartlett building on a Friday morning, chances are you’ll see Dennis Haymore and a few Student Ambassadors prepping for the weekly “Taste of SALT” presentation. While waiting for the attendees to arrive, Dennis gets into conversations with students, genuinely inquiring about their week. As he welcomes prospective students and families to the SALT Center, he greets them with hospitality, making them feel comfortable. Walk by his office, and you’ll see him caught up in a good laugh or a deep conversation.
Dennis assists students, parents, and high school counselors with the SALT Center admissions process as the Admissions Team Office Specialist. The thing that always stands out about Dennis is the way that he connects with others. We asked Dennis a few questions about himself, his rapport with students, and his time at the SALT Center:
Q: Why did you want to work at the SALT Center?
A: I’ve worked on campus for nearly 16 years, mostly with graduate students that I never saw. I developed a preference for face-to-face interaction with students, parents, and counselors from my many years in retail, and the SALT Center provides me with plenty of that.
Q: There’s no denying that you are popular among students using SALT Center services. Why do you think that is?
A: I take the time to get to know them and their parents. I’ve been told that I am personable, and I feel that I make them comfortable while speaking with them. As Art Linkletter said years ago, when talking to young kids, you never talk down to them - speak to them on the same level, and eye to eye.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being at the SALT Center?
A: Watching students right out of high school accomplishing and doing things that they never imagined they would be doing.
Q: What do you see as the most common concern for incoming students?
A: Most students are concerned about being portrayed differently from the general student population. When I speak to them at my “Taste of SALT” and “Dash of SALT” presentations, I make sure to emphasize that they are University of Arizona students who uses our services, and are 100% mainstreamed. They are not attending special classes or living in a certain residence hall.
Q: What advice do you give to prospective students?
A: Wherever they decide to attend college, use the available resources, especially the instructor’s office hours. Secondly, take internships with their department of interest.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I love playing racquetball and teaching my son and daughter the game. In the past, I played in tournaments throughout Tucson, Phoenix, and Sierra Vista.
Q: What is your favorite Wildcat sport?
A: I am a huge baseball and softball fan!
After getting to know Dennis, his connection with students, families, and his coworkers becomes easy to understand. We thank him for his dedication, and hope he’s here to welcome students and their families for years to come.
Class of 1995
UA degree: B.A. Philosophy
Current Residence: Scottsdale, AZ
Previous Experience: Retail and Pharmaceutical Sales
Employer: Tantrum Bags
Q: How has the SALT Center played a role in your success as a professional?
A: The SALT Center services contributed to who I am today because I was able to feel safe and comfortable with myself and consequently, succeed in my classes and ultimately in life. The tutoring services pushed me to learn material in new ways, such as taking notes on my computer, which is something I do to this day. This is an example of how SALT promotes self-advocacy and encourages students to be problem solvers.
Q: What message do you want to share with incoming SALT students?
A: College and life can be challenging at times, but during those challenges focus on the positive. Trust your positive instinct and imagine everyone is cheering you on. At Tantrum Bags, one business slogan is “fearless focus”, which means allowing yourself to reach out for what you want to accomplish, focusing on the end result, and believing your dreams can truly come true.
By Jennifer Hansen, Eric Fergason, Hilary Cummins
Coming to The University of Arizona was a logical choice for self-proclaimed "country girl," Morghan Sonderer. Having learned responsibility at a young age while working on her family's ranch, Morghan knew that she would need to take a number of variables into consideration when deciding which University to attend. The academic support offered at the SALT Center, the variety of engagement opportunities at the UA, and being from Southern Arizona all factored into her decision to become a Wildcat.
When asked what stands out about her time at the UA/SALT Center, Morghan says that, "the friendliness, feeling welcome, and feeling like part of the SALT family," have been key to her experience. She added that the SALT Center has given her the opportunity to get to know more people on the UA campus, particularly through the relationships she has built with her tutors: "The tutors are so nice to work with. They care about the student's understanding."
Since the beginning of her academic career at the UA, Morghan has managed to find the time to be involved at the University and throughout the greater community around Tucson. She is a member of the Pre-Vet Club and the UA Equestrian Team. She works with Enactus, assists with animal and horse rescue groups, volunteers with veterinary clinics, and participates in other events, such as the Tucson Rodeo and El Tour de Tucson. In addition to these organizations, Morghan has volunteered at the Reid Park Zoo and the Pima County Fairgrounds for special events, all while majoring in Animal Science at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, with a specialization in Equine Science, and pursuing a minor in Business Administration.
When asked about her academic accomplishments, Morghan says that she is proud of making the Dean's List, maintaining her high GPA, and being invited to join honor clubs and organizations, like the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She mentioned that the SALT Center has helped her achieve the GPA requirements to be admitted to these organizations: "Use of [SALT Center services] helped me with grades and receiving scholarships."
Morghan owns that attaining this level of success has not always been easy: "To some extent, school is challenging." However, after growing up on a ranch, Morghan is used to challenges. She sees them as an opportunity to dig in and face the hard work head-on. She stresses that the SALT Center has helped her overcome some of these challenges: "The tutors help with planning ahead and staying on top of things so that I don't procrastinate."
It is Morghan's passion for her goals, her friends, and her family that earned her the Michelle Combs Award. The award is given in honor of former UA student and SALT Center participant, Michelle Combs, who, Morghan learned, was, "friendly, outgoing, kind, and willing to help others." The Michelle Combs Award was established last fall and recognizes students who exhibit Michelle's adventurous, energetic, and goal-oriented characteristics. It was given to two students during the 2014 Family Weekend Celebration & Awards Ceremony. Morghan admitted that being one of the first recipients of this award caught her a bit off-guard, but that she is incredibly humbled by it: "It is an honor. I was honored knowing what the award was…who it represented."
One cannot help but admire Morghan's positive attitude, academic success, and drive to help others. We are so proud of Morghan, and we know that her ability to turn a challenge into an opportunity will help her achieve all her goals. We can't wait to see what else she will accomplish.
Class of 2005
UA degree: B.A. Journalism
Current Residence: Tucson, AZ
Employer: Citadel Broadcasting
Position: Sports Studio Engineer & Producer
Q: What skills did you acquire while at the SALT Center that you use as a professional?
A: During my time at the SALT Center, I learned how to ask for help and that it’s ok to ask for help. A skill I learned at the SALT Center which has carried over into my professional career is time management. It is critical that I get to work on time and start projects in advance to be able to review my work.
Q: What is your dream job?
A: I am currently working on my elementary education certification at Pima Community College. My goal is to work with students who face similar challenges as I did and inspire them to accomplish their dreams. I will definitely mix sport expressions into my teaching, using such themes as determination and perseverance.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky
Class of 1993
Q: As a 1993 graduate, explain what it was like to be a SALT student before the program had its own facility as it does today.
The SALT Program affected me as both as a SALT Tutor and a SALT Student (1991-1993). At the time, I was an older student than most who are in your program now. When I first started I was age 29 and I had just gotten out of the Air Force. I had a previous degree in Political Science but my grades were not good enough for Graduate School. I had a dream to try to become a Mechanical Engineer. I was taking classes full and part time at the UA.
In 1991, I had returned from a cooperative education program working as a student engineer with the US Navy in California. I needed work and I started first as a SALT Tutor. I was hired to tutor students in Astronomy and Geology because of my science/math background. Through the professional learning disability training I received as a tutor and working with SALT Students, I found out many things about myself.
At the time, I found that I had many of the same symptoms my students had and I was struggling in my Mechanical Engineering classes. These items I thought were "normal" but later I discovered I had a form of dyslexia that affected my hearing and thought processes making me a slow person. Although too late for my first degree, the knowledge of having my learning disability helped me complete my second degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Q: What was it like to work alongside, or sometimes with, Eleanor Harner (SALT Founder)?
Eleanor Harner was head of the program. She was a kindly but firm woman trying to get a new and innovative program going. Not everyone thought Eleanor was correct in her approach and there was often push back by the academia.
When I was first hired as a SALT Student Tutor in 1991 we worked out of an old 1920s style, two story house off of East 6th just south of Old Main. I believe the building was where the facilities management custodial building now stands. It was where we tutored most of our students. As an engineering student, I assisted in putting in the first handicap ramp at the back door of the house. Later we moved to the basement of Old Main where we took up half the basement for counselors and all the tables outside of the building for tutoring. It was here that I met Beverly Sandock, one of the SALT counselors.
Q: How has the SALT Center played a role in your success as a professional?
The meeting with Beverly Sandock changed my life. I was referred to Dr. Wolf and she diagnosed me with dyslexia. With this information in hand, I became a student in the SALT program. With its advocacy, I was able to take my engineering exams and later my Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) professional exam with extra time. I completed my courses and received my BS in Mechanical Engineering in December 1993. Later, because of my SALT tutoring, I became a substitute teacher in science and math in Pima County then later moved into my career as a mechanical engineer with the US Navy. I have 18 years government service now and travel the world fixing navy ships.
Q: What message of advice would you share with incoming SALT students?
I would say never give up, keep trying and find a way. I believe in Cesar Chavez's words "¡Si, Se Puede! ("Yes, you can"). I say this to Ventura County foster children that my wife and I raise now. They struggle to fight with their emotions and with their issues of abuse and family neglect. They have many issues as insurmountable as SALT Students but only caused by a failed society and broken families. I am passing on what was given to me as a positive role model.
Class of 2004
UA degree: B.A. Psychology, Minor in Classics
Current Residence: San Francisco, CA
Employer: Merrill Lynch
Position: Financial Advisor
The SALT center helped provide me with some unique tools to manage my time, stay organized, and prioritize my tasks so well that they have become automatic in everything I do. Hands on coaching and various other forms of assistance were able to supplement my own efforts. Even though I am a few years removed from graduation, I still quite regularly recall and reuse things I learned through SALT to help me through my average work day such as how to take efficient notes and prioritize my tasks. I had a lot of difficulty with test taking and SALT provided me with incredible accommodations while I learned valuable skills that helped me with testing post-college when such accommodations weren’t available.
Q: What message of advice would you share with incoming SALT Center students?
The SALT center provides you an unbelievable amount of skills-training and assistance. However, the work and effort depends on you. There is no shortage of tools available for everything you need to make it through college and beyond, but it is up to you to seek out what you need, learn and implement. The SALT Center doesn't simply work hard to create the best program in the country just to help you through college. They set you up to learn how to level the playing field for life.
The SALT Center employs roughly 90 tutors each academic year. Their expertise spans a variety of subject areas, and they undergo a rigorous training regiment to ensure that they have the proper skills to empower students who learn differently. To better understand how tutoring at the SALT Center can impact future employment, we interviewed David Wagner, a UA attorney and former tutor at the SALT Center.
David was a sophomore when he realized that he needed a job, but he wanted to do something more meaningful than fry food or work as a cashier. After reflecting on his options, he decided to apply for a tutoring position at the SALT Center, “I always enjoyed teaching and tutoring.”
David started at the SALT Center while it was still located in the basement of Old Main, “Tutoring was done on a bunch of benches bolted to the walls. When they got the new building, it really amped things up.” The SALT Center moved from the cramped, dingy basement to the beautiful facility that it inhabits today (the Patricia A. Bartlett building), complete with plenty of open space for tutoring and an abundance of natural light.
In order to be an effective tutor, David had to learn how to explain difficult concepts in new ways. He recalled one particularly effective lesson on air pressure, “I ended up bringing in a bunch of tennis balls…and was bouncing them around the cubicle to demonstrate how air pressure and air molecules work. You have to be creative when trying to explain a concept to someone; you have to try different angles to make it click.” His ingenuity paid off – throughout his time at the SALT Center, David helped hundreds of students with learning challenges achieve their academic goals.
When asked about the value that tutoring offered him, David replied that becoming a good tutor had a positive impact on his own education: “Knowing your audience [is critical]. Each person is unique in terms of how they learn…when you teach to different audiences, you learn the subject better yourself.”
David saw this lesson play out in one of his law classes - “The professor had taught the same class for 15 years. He made the same jokes on the same days - it was down to precision. I think that’s great, but I think its better when you have to present the same material in a different way. I think it rounds you out a little more.”
David said that he was surprised to enjoy the job as much as he did, “I didn’t really know, going into it, how in-depth it would be, and how much I would get out of it. I just figured I’d much rather teach something than make food. But then it turned into something I really enjoyed.” David’s enthusiasm for tutoring inspired him to recruit a few friends to tutor at the SALT Center, including his future wife.
Another surprise for David was just how effective the SALT Center was at providing academic support for students who learn differently, “I don’t think I realized how much of a recruiting tool it is [for the University]. There are people who come from all over the country just for the SALT Center.”
David went on to earn his law degree at The University of Texas, and then took a job in Indianapolis. After spending some time at a big law firm, he decided to explore other options, and is now an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the University of Arizona, where he assists the University in employment law matters.
We are so grateful for David’s contribution to our students and our history. It’s tutors like him who make the SALT Center an incredible place to learn and to work.
Interested in learning more about SALT Center Tutoring Services? Visit http://salt.arizona.edu/services/tutoring.
Visit David Wagner's UA profile at http://ogc.arizona.edu/d_wagner.
Class of 2014
The SALT Center employs a team of tutors ranging from undergraduates to retirees. Each tutor represents a diverse community of individuals dedicated to student success. Last week, we posted an article on former tutor, David Wagner (class of 2003), which outlined his experience as a tutor at the SALT Center and the impact it had on his college career (visit our SALT Center Stories page to read more). This week, we are highlighting Regular Tutor, Tomi Obafemi. Tomi is currently a senior at the UA, majoring in Molecular Biology, with a minor in Business Administration.
Tomi began tutoring at the SALT Center in January of 2013. He thought it would be a good fit because he has always helped his friends with their schoolwork: “I have been tutoring my friends throughout college, helping them with math, science, basically anything I have had experience with.” When Tomi learned about the SALT Center’s tutoring services, he thought it sounded like a great opportunity: “I figured, I already do this, why not get paid?”
SALT Center tutors undergo a rigorous training regiment to obtain and maintain their tutor certification. As a Regular Tutor, Tomi has met the requirements for the first level of SALT Center tutoring – 15 hours of training, and 25 hours of tutoring.
Tutor training provided Tomi with some important insights into his natural method of teaching: “There are some things that you do unconsciously…one thing I always try to do is simplify the text or material and apply it to real life. I use a lot of real-world examples, or I put the tutee in that position.” Learning that he was already utilizing some tutoring best practices was very encouraging to Tomi, “Putting a name to what I [was already doing] was a highlight of the training.”
While Tomi became a great resource for students who learn differently, tutoring also provided Tomi with several benefits, including reinforcement of his own studies: “I enjoy relearning the material, refreshing as I go.” It even helped prepare him for the MCATS – as a Chemistry and Biology tutor, he was able to reinforce things he learned as a freshmen, but hadn't put to practice for some time.
Tomi also found that hearing himself talk about what he was teaching afforded him the opportunity better comprehend the material: “That's one thing I tell people…if you’re trying to learn something new, see if others can take time to listen to you try to explain it to them. When you read it, you’re like, ‘I get it,’ but, when you speak it, it brings [the subject] to life.”
Tomi claims that one of rewards of tutoring at the SALT Center is sharing in a tutee’s success: “I just enjoy what the tutee feels when they do well.” Since the SALT Center provides comprehensive academic support to students who learn differently, tutors like Tomi play an integral part in their journey: “Recently, a student that I had been working with got a test back - he had earned a 92 percent! It was the first ‘A’ he had ever gotten in a Chemistry class. He was happy, we were both happy - I just shared in his joy and success.” This is one example of the many students Tomi has impacted throughout his time at the SALT Center.
Tomi plans to graduate this spring and attend medical school in the fall, where he intends to utilize the skills he has gained as a SALT Center tutor. He has several options to choose from, including the University of Arizona. Wherever he ends up, The SALT Center wishes Tomi the best of luck. We are grateful for his contribution to our program, and the value he has provided to our students.
The SALT Center employs a team of tutors ranging from undergraduates to retirees. Each tutor represents a diverse community of individuals dedicated to student success. Last week, we posted an article on Regular Tutor, Tomi Obafemi (class of 2014), in which we discussed his experience as a tutor at the SALT Center and the impact it has had on his college career (visit our SALT Center Stories page to read more). This week, we are highlighting Advanced Tutors and sisters, Alex and Sam Stanley. Alex is currently a senior at the UA, majoring in English and Music, and her sister, Sam, is a senior majoring in Communication.
While looking for a job during her sophomore year at the UA, Alex assessed what she had to offer – she realized that her academic record and experience as a tutor in High School would be very marketable. She learned about the SALT Center’s tutoring services through a friend who utilized the program, and thought it would be a great fit.
Based on her friend’s testimonial, the characteristics that made the SALT Center unique compared to other programs on campus were its small student population and personal interactions. “I figured I’d give it a shot!” said Alex. “I think it offers a much friendlier atmosphere, because you can get swallowed up in this giant university, and [the SALT Center] is a place to feel safe and to learn.”
Alex told her twin sister, Sam, about her new job, and Sam started tutoring at the SALT Center the following semester. “I like that the SALT Center is right here [on campus]. It’s different than [other academic support centers] because you get to develop relationships since you see the same people all the time.”
SALT Center tutors undergo a rigorous training regiment to obtain and maintain their tutor certification. After earning their Regular Tutor certification, Alex and Sam wanted to become Advanced Tutors. In order to move up to this level, they each had to complete 100 hours of tutoring, and create a project that was reviewed by those who have obtained the highest level of certification: the Master Tutors.
While they also participated in campus-wide trainings that included tutors from the THINK TANK and other academic support programs, their training at the SALT Center focused on strategies for students who learn differently. As Alex explained, “We do specialized training [at the SALT Center] because there are some things we deal with that [other support centers] don’t, and vice versa.” Sam added, “You learn a lot about different learning challenges and different strategies. Once you get to the Advanced or Master level, you’re [a much more effective] tutor.”
Advancing though the different levels of tutor certification impacted both Sam and Alex’s personal academic experiences. Sam’s training, coupled with her time in the Writer’s Lab, bolstered her confidence in her own writing ability, “I think it makes me academically stronger because I brush up on what I know every day…I have become a much better writer because of all of that practice.”
Alex’s time in tutoring sessions helped reinforce her skills and broaden her perspective, “The strategies that we teach the students are the same strategies that I use when I write papers, so its really helpful to go over those every day…It definitely reinforces your knowledge, because you can look at [a concept] from 15 different angles”
Sam and Alex share the sentiment that the highlight of their job is the relationships they build with students as they grow. A student may enter a tutoring session with very little understanding of the material, but leave with a feeling of confidence. Sam states that she enjoys her relationships with first-year students most of all: “It’s really cool to see them from day to day, hear how they are doing, and watch them pick their major.”
Sam will continue her education at the UA this fall as a graduate student in the Communication department, and will be advancing to the level of Master Tutor at the end of this semester, “It’s kind of funny, because I’m probably going to be a TA for a lot of the students I tutor.” Alex, a Fulbright Finalist, will be moving to Chile as part of the United Nation’s Open Doors program, where she’ll teach at a K-12 school.
We are very grateful for Sam and Alex’s contribution to our program, and the value they have provided to our students. We wish them both the best of luck in all of their future endeavors.
The SALT Center employs a team of tutors ranging from undergraduates to retirees. Each tutor represents a diverse community of individuals dedicated to student success. Last week, we posted an article on Advanced Tutors and sisters, Sam & Alex Stanley (class of 2014), in which we discussed their experience as tutors at the SALT Center, and the impact it has had on their college careers (visit our SALT Center Stories page to read more). This week, we are highlighting Master Tutor, Kathleen Jackson. Kathleen is an Air Force Veteran with a wealth of tutoring experience.
Kathleen’s tutoring career began long before she heard about the SALT Center at the University of Arizona. Kathleen attends a Mosque with a predominantly Pakistani congregation - many of the children struggle with speaking English, which has caused them to suffer in school. Years ago, a number of the families asked Kathleen (a native English speaker) if she could help, to which she happily agreed - she began tutoring middle and high school students, and found that she both excelled at and enjoyed it.
As Kathleen’s tutees moved from high school to college, she recognized that those who learned differently still needed her help. She wanted to continue to be a part of their success, so she began browsing the UA Human Resources page. When she saw an opening at the SALT Center, she thought, “That sounds like a perfect job for me!” Shortly after applying, a UA Veterans Representative called her for an interview, and, eventually, she was offered a tutoring position.
SALT Center tutors undergo a rigorous training regiment to obtain and maintain their tutor certification. In a matter of four semesters, Kathleen earned her Master Tutor Certificate. Kathleen recalled the phases of training involved in rising to the highest level of tutor certification, including observing other advanced and master tutors, self-evaluation, and training on assistive technology and Learning Disabilities.
Kathleen also mentioned a training video that made an impression on her: “The film shows a bunch of tutors who are taken to a classroom, where their trainer gets up and pretends to be a professor – he belittles his ‘pupils’ and says that they’ll never succeed.” Kathleen went on to describe how the trainer breaks character and explains that this is the way many professors make their students feel. This role-play contrasted the relationship between student and professor versus student and tutor, and highlighted the important role that tutors play in encouraging and empowering students, “It was a very moving video.”
In addition to extensive training, another requirement that Master Tutors must meet is the creation of a project that demonstrates their ability to help students become more independent learners. For her project, Kathleen designed crossword puzzles for students taking two specific courses: Comparative Religions, and The Religion of Islam. The crossword puzzles included answers to questions about Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Protestantism, and Catholicism. “It was a fun way for students to check their understanding.”
As a Master Tutor, Kathleen is responsible for the growth of other tutors at the SALT Center. For example, each tutor is required to fill out a Session Review for every tutoring session that they facilitate. In it, the tutor lists what the student wanted to accomplish, which strategies were used to help the student accomplish those goals, a summary of the session, and ways that the tutor can help the student become a more independent learner. The Master Tutors and the Learning Support Services staff review these documents and provide the tutors with feedback. Kathleen found that providing feedback to other tutors has actually improved her practice: “It has made me a better tutor because, as I think of ways to help the other tutors, I apply what I tell them to my own tutoring. I have to practice what I preach!”
Kathleen’s passion for what she does has been evident since the day she was hired: “I asked, ‘Can I stay as long as I am able?’ and they said, ‘Yes!’ I have enjoyed it immensely.” Kathleen’s abilities and rapport with students have proven to be an asset to the SALT Center. Students she tutored from the Mosque, who now attend the UA, have sought her out for help. Other students she tutored as a Regular and Advanced Tutor return to her as they continue their education: “A lot of students come back to me semester after semester.”
We are very grateful for Kathleen’s contribution to our program, and the value she have provided to our students. We hope that she’ll continue to support students and tutors at the SALT Center for years to come.
Since the SALT Center moved into what is now the Patricia A. Bartlett Building in 2001, the bottom floor has housed the Computer Resource Lab (CRL), which has traditionally provided students with educational technology to help them achieve academic success. With all of the technological advancements of the last decade, a new position was developed to keep the SALT Center on the cutting edge. Former Learning Specialist, Mary Beth Foster, now serves as the SALT Center’s first Educational Technology Coordinator. She oversees the CRL and pioneers new innovations in learning and assistive technology. We sat down with Mary Beth to learn about the exciting changes that she’s bringing to the CRL.
The Computer Resource Lab (CRL) at the SALT Center has served a variety of purposes over the years. In the past, its large bank of desktop stations gave students access to the hardware and software that they needed to be successful. However, the traditional model of a computer lab has been turned on its head with the advent of mobile technology. Enter Mary Beth Foster, the SALT Center’s first Educational Technology Coordinator.
Mary Beth has been with the SALT Center as a Strategic Learning Specialist for a number of years, and has observed firsthand both the benefits and challenges that technology presents to students. She has a Master’s Degree in Information Resources and Library Science, with an emphasis in technology. At the SALT Center, she has worked on various committees and projects devoted to learning through technology. Most recently, she served on the Technology Integration for Learning Task Force (TILT), a SALT Center committee dedicated to evaluating educational technology and making recommendations for optimizing its use. Together, she and the committee members generated some incredible new ideas to make the CRL an outstanding resource for students who learn differently. In her new role as Educational Technology Coordinator, Mary Beth plans to transform these ideas into reality.
The first big change was the introduction of the new E-Scape Lounge. “With more and more students bringing their own technology to campus, we wanted to give them a space to work with their mobile devices while receiving SALT Center support,” says Mary Beth. “It’s a quiet and comfortable area where students can work independently or in groups.” The lounge offers convertible seating and furniture arrangements that students can customize to fit both their technology and their study needs. It is also equipped with iPads that allow students to explore selected educational apps at their leisure.
In addition to the E-Scape Lounge, the CRL offers a variety of services to help students get acquainted with new technology that they’ll use in college, including peer-to-peer support with student Technology (Tech) Consultants, who are part of a new internship program that Mary Beth launched in the Fall. The Tech Consultants, who are students currently enrolled in the SALT Center, come with strong backgrounds in assistive and emerging technology. “Because these students have used educational technology to support their own learning, they are an incredible resource for their peers,” explains Mary Beth. The Tech Consultants assist students with everything from learning to use assistive technology software, to helping them navigate key University web platforms, to recommending apps for time management. Some of the Tech Consultants are also working on developing an app for the SALT Center while earning credit for a senior project.
As technology continues to evolve, Mary Beth will make sure that the CRL stays at the forefront of innovation. She and her team will collaborate with students, coworkers, and campus partners to provide support and services to an increasingly mobile audience. Mary Beth’s time and experience at the SALT Center have been invaluable. We thank her for her dedication and enthusiasm for student achievement, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for her team and for the CRL.
To learn more about the CRL, visit http://salt.arizona.edu/services/educational-technology.
When Devin Slack was looking at colleges, he knew he needed a school that would give him additional support for his learning challenge. He applied to the University of Arizona because the SALT Center would do just that: “My family and I searched high and low for institutions that provided good academic support, and, after touring two other campuses, I knew that the University of Arizona was 100% the place I wanted to go.”
Reflecting on the transition from high school to college, Devin describes the college experience as one continuous transition: “Having to go above and beyond on assignments, transitioning from general education classes to classes within my major…it all served as a wake up call.” One skill Devin knew he would need to learn quickly in order to manage this transition was time management. Working with his strategic learning specialist, Devin was able learn strategies to help him manage his course load, using tools like the “Semester at a Glance,” a one-page document outlining all every due date for each class that students can reference throughout the semester.
With his new-found time-management skills, Devin was encouraged and emboldened to get involved with extra-curricular clubs and activities. His strategic learning specialist recommended that he become a SALT Center Student Ambassador, which would give hime the opportunity to share his experiences with prospective students and families: “Working as a Student Ambassador at the SALT Center has really grown my confidence. It’s great being in a position where people are interested in my opinion.” Devin is even considering becoming a SALT Center tutor because of that confidence - he believes he can help other student who learn differently navigate the transition to college, just as the SALT Center helped him.
When he’s not giving tours at the SALT Center, Devin is usually studying. Majoring in Electrical Engineering, with a Math minor, he has plenty of schoolwork to keep him busy: “I like all of the material - it’s fascinating. It’s also nice to know there is a job waiting for me; that provides a little security.” While his fields of study might require that he be at the UA for an extra year, it doesn’t bother Devin in the least - “I love it here, so I don't mind taking another year. There is no point in rushing if your having a good time.”
Even though he’s just entering his junior year, Devin is already looking ahead. While the idea of working in a robotics lab after graduation is enticing, he’s also considering continuing his education: “Just recently, I got a letter from a professor asking me if I wanted to turn my Math minor into a major, and he was talking about me going to grad school. I hadn't really thought about it, but I kind of like the sound of ‘Dr. Slack’ - it has a good ring to it.”
Devin has made quite an impact in his short time at the SALT Center and the UA, and we are so grateful for his willingness to give back to our program as a Student Ambassador. This intelligent, dedicated, and gracious young man has an incredibly bright future ahead of him, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.
We recently sat down with Paul Bastedo, UA alumnus and Strategic Learning Specialist at the SALT Center, to talk about the challenges and rewards of his job. Paul utilized SALT Center services as an undergraduate at the UA. This self-proclaimed product of the SALT Center describes the way he works with students with passion and empathy.
While Paul was teaching in the Sunnyside Unified School District, his former Strategic Learning Specialist contacted him and encouraged him to consider working at the SALT Center. Paul decided to apply for the position, but didn’t plan on staying long - “I thought I would come here, work while I got my master’s, and go somewhere else.” To our good fortune, after earning a master’s degree in Special Education and five years at the SALT Center, Paul continues to meet with over sixty students a week. “I’m here because of the difference we make in the lives of these students.”
Reflecting on the unique experience of working with students throughout their college career, Paul recounts an array of difficulties and successes - from the challenges of helping them adjust to college life, to the pride he feels in watching them grow and gain confidence, to their transition to life after college: “Sometimes, we're not just their Strategic Learning Specialists, we’re their mentor, their person to vent to, their friend.”
A top priority for our Strategic Learning Specialists is to provide learning strategies to the students they support: “As for learning strategies, I spend a lot of time talking about time-management and reading strategies.” Paul says these strategies help students who learn differently navigate their coursework successfully, and find a balance between academics and their personal life.
Like the rest of our Strategic Learning Specialists, Paul is always working to improve his practice by obtaining certifications and participating in professional development. Paul’s CV includes a Teaching Credential (Cross-Categorical Special Education, K-12), as well as a Behavior Support Specialist Certification. Paul is currently working towards his Board-Certified Behavior Analyst certification.
We are so grateful for Paul’s dedication to his students and the rest of our staff here at the SALT Center. His wit, charm, and passion make him an amazing asset to our team, and his investment in his students continues to change lives.
The 2014 SALT Center Family Weekend Celebration & Awards Ceremony saw the first recipients of the Michelle Combs Award. The award was created to commemorate the life of Michelle Combs, a UA student who used SALT Center services. Michelle lost her life during her sophomore year. Her family and friends established this award and an endowment in her honor. The award is given to students who exhibit her adventurous, energetic, and goal-oriented characteristics (to read more about the Michelle Combs Award, click here).
I had the opportunity to meet with one of the SALT Center’s first Michelle Combs Award recipients, Christian Brown. Finding a little time between classes, Christian and I sat down near the Student Union. Even with his full bags and hurried demeanor, he seemed comfortable with the hustle.
I asked Christian to tell me a little more about himself, and he had plenty to share - after several changes to his major, Christian found his way into Systems Engineering, and has just one year left before graduating. He is a member of the Society Civil Engineers, and a Webmaster for the University of Arizona Flying Club. He has interned for the Kiewit Corporation. He is a volunteer at Wright Flight, a non-profit that exposes kids to aviation, and a volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. When he finds himself back home in Hawaii, he and his father volunteer at their church. With all of these activities, he still finds time to give words of wisdom to his sister about college life.
Between his academic pursuits, multiple volunteer efforts, club events, and dedication to his family, Christian says he hardly has any time left over for socializing: “My biggest challenge is to find down time. Between school and volunteer obligations, I don't find much time to spend with friends.” Upon further reflection, he added, “But I do find that the volunteer time fulfilling. It is social, and allows me to connect with different people, make more friends, and it definitely helps me network.”
When asked about being nominated for the Michelle Combs Award, Christian described its immediate impact: “Digging into the award, and who Michelle was, was heart breaking…that was me, she was around my age when she died.” He recognized with modesty that his involvements in his community reflect Michelle’s drive: “We (all of the nominees) are deserving of the award, but I guess they saw more in me and saw more of the essence of Michelle in me…the legacy of this award was that you live your life to the fullest.”
I think its safe to say Christian is doing just that - we wish him the best in his endeavors, and we are proud to call him a recipient of the Michelle Combs Award.
If you would like to contact the SALT Center's Marketing Specialist, please call or email Eric Fergason.
By Eric Fergason
In the breezeway of the Patricia A. Bartlett building, David Peak approaches, wearing his customary scarf and sunglasses. You’ll see him in the same spot on Friday mornings, greeting people before “Taste of SALT” presentations, during which David answers questions for prospective students and their families as an ambassador for the SALT Center. We met to reflect on his time at the University of Arizona and his experience with our program.
When asked what led him to choose the UA during his college search, David recalled several factors: size, support, and ‘The Feeling.’ Because he was raised in a small town, he was already accustomed to Tucson’s small community. He pondered attending another state university, but he believed that their academic support services wouldn’t quite meet his needs. Besides, his brother studied there, and David wanted a different experience: “I kind of wanted to go somewhere that would be my own college.”
Additionally, his mother, a special education aid, was familiar with the services available at the UA, including the SALT Center, and encouraged David to consider it. He was very impressed: “I did not envision that The SALT Center would have the facilities and setup that it has.”
One of the biggest factors that led David to choose the UA is what he describes as ‘The Feeling’ -‐ “It’s the feeling I get when I really want something.” After attending a “Taste of SALT” and the UA presentation in Old Main, David said ‘The Feeling’ struck him: “I looked out the window across the mall…[and the UA] just felt like [the right fit for] me.”
David is very pleased with his choice; he is studying Creative Writing, and has enjoyed his undergraduate career at the UA. He credits the support he has received at the SALT Center, particularly the tutoring services, with his current success: “I had a stereotypical [and limited] tutoring experience in High School; I didn’t expect so much peer tutoring in so many subjects.”
With his more demanding classes behind him, David decided to look for a job during his senior year in order to gain experience and a little extra cash: “I was looking into becoming one of the UA ambassadors who walk backwards.” His research for this position reminded him that the SALT Center employed ambassadors, as well. Upon further consideration, David decided to apply, and got the job.
As an ambassador, David engages with prospective students and families on a weekly basis. He is proud to share his SALT Center experience with future students, and also considers it a great networking opportunity: “I was the consumer, and now, in a way, I’m selling the product.”
With graduation fast approaching, we are glad to have David greeting families and sharing his experience at our “Taste of SALT” presentations for a few more months. We congratulate him on earning his degree, and we wish him success in all of his future endeavors.