Since the 1970s Umpqua Community College has offered free, on-campus academic tutoring to all enrolled students.
Since that humble beginning, the college’s tutoring services have expanded beyond the campus and the center strives to serve UCC students and the public alike. Students such as Matthew Thompsen have benefitted greatly from the tutoring lab, now known as the UCC Success Center.
Thompsen is a cabinetmaker and a recent graduate of UCC. For nearly 10 years he worked at Monaco Coach in Coburg, north of Eugene.
“I was a flunky, but it was a great job. I did almost everything. I swept floors, I did installs, I performed quality control on the finished busses. I loved it,” he said.
However, his favorite part of the job was fitting the coaches with custom cabinetry.
“I’ve been working with wood since I was a boy. It’s a great hobby, and an even better profession,” he says with a laugh.
Thompsen’s world came crashing down when he and the rest of the plant received a pink slip in 2009. As a single father, his first and only priority was providing for his 9-year-old daughter.
“Roseburg had cheaper rent than Eugene, so we moved. We didn’t have a choice.”
One day the quarterly schedule for UCC arrived in his mailbox. That evening after tucking his daughter into bed, he idly started flipping through it and was surprised at the offerings. Then and there he made the decision to return to school and earn a college degree.
Thompsen enrolled at UCC as a business major and while he excelled in most of his classes, he felt that some extra help in Spanish was warranted. Despite having an outstanding instructor, he knew more one-on-one practice would help his atrocious Spanish improve exponentially.
The UCC Success Center provided the atmosphere Thompsen needed. He learned they primarily provided tutoring services: Services that were free of charge and that would work around his schedule.
Two native Spanish speakers were on staff, and after a few visits Thompsen felt his confidence skyrocket and saw his grades improve dramatically.
The expanded Success Center provides a calm, quiet area for students to study — with tutors, with other students, or by themselves. The center shares space with one of the college’s many computer labs, offering 21 stations for students to use for assignments, homework and research — all free of charge.
Computer Information System and writing tutors are on hand to provide answers to computer questions. In addition to writing and CIS, tutors in math, social sciences, foreign languages, engineering, business and science are available.
All tutors are currently enrolled UCC students. Tutors are chosen from the student body by their academic distinction and ability to communicate and empathize with their fellow students. In addition the tutors handle much of the day-to-day operations of the center.
“It’s a holistic approach,” says director Terrance Bradford. Record keeping, scheduling, and public relations are all responsibilities that are placed on the tutors. Under Bradford’s direction, the Success Center has seen an increase in both student services as well as visitors.
Bradford also initiated the Supplemental Instruction program, a service that provides in-class tutoring for students who want extra guidance during lecture periods. The effects of these changes are already apparent, as students who utilize the center’s available services report higher confidence and better grades.
Matt Thompsen finished his studies at UCC in spring 2012 and moved to California. He bought a houseboat in San Francisco’s East Bay. While walking along the pier one day introducing himself to his new neighbors, he mentioned he had been a cabinetmaker before moving.
He was asked if he was willing to do interior repairs on sailboats, houseboats and yachts moored at the marina. Word spread and by the end of the day he had enough work lined up to keep him busy for six months. Today, he runs a cabinetry and furniture fabrication shop, specializing in boat installations.
Thompsen laughs when he talks about his new life. “I’m doing something I love and without those tutors I wouldn’t have been able to finish school and I wouldn’t be here.”
Today his Spanish has advanced enough that he can hold his own in conversations with native Spanish speakers and also helps his now high school-age daughter with her Spanish lessons.
The Success Center is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year (9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday during summer session) and is located in room 15 of the Education Skills Building on the UCC campus. No appointment is required to see a tutor and walk-ins are encouraged.
They can be reached by phone at 541-440-7733 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nathan Anderson is a UCC student studying applied mathematics and a tutor for writing and math at UCC’s Success Center. He can be reached at email@example.com.