Center for Learning Resources Celebrates 30 Years of Tutoring
Center for Learning Resources Celebrates 30 Years of Tutoring

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

Nicholas Zoghb ’89, ’91 M.S., ’92 M.S. had just aced a math competition when his professor led him down a flight of stairs in Maxcy Hall to Loretta Smith’s office.

At the time, Smith was director of UNH’s Center for Learning Resources (CLR) and Zoghb was a UNH undergrad who was really good at math. “Hire him!” his professor said, and soon enough Zoghb was a math tutor.

Zoghb has stayed on for 25 years, tutoring through undergraduate and graduate school, while working as an electrical engineer, an adjunct professor and today as a practitioner-in-residence in the mathematics and physics departments.

The Center for Learning Resources has more than 17,000 student visits annually.

He still recalls one of his first tutees, a 58-year-old, non-traditional student who hadn’t finished his degree because he dreaded taking math, having long struggled with the subject. Zoghb became his tutor and continually encouraged him.

Then, by coincidence, he was going to a friend’s graduation ceremony and spotted his tutee graduating. “He was pushing his father in a wheelchair on his way into the ceremony,” Zoghb remembered. “He said to his father, 'This is the man who made this day happen for me.' To this day I remember that moment. I saw I had made a difference in someone’s life. I was so young at the time I didn’t understand that what I did mattered. The moment had such gravitas.”

While Zoghb is celebrating a milestone at 25 years of service, so is the CLR, which this year marks its 30th year at UNH. With final exams a little more than a week away, the CLR figures to be a popular location on campus.

Located in the lower level of the Marvin K. Peterson Library, the CLR provides tutoring services in math, English, science and business. It features a writing lab, a computer lab, a peer tutoring program and a workshop series. Students can find academic support on writing assignments and presentations and most first-year and sophomore-level courses in math, science and business. (View the workshop schedule or make a tutoring appointment online.)

UNH was one of the first universities in the country to put all of its tutoring services under one roof.

Debbie Malewicki, CLR director, said the Center has grown exponentially in the last five years, from a staff of 32 tutors and 4,000 student visits annually to a staff of 75 and 17,000 student visits per year.

There are many reasons for that growth and success, Malewicki said: tremendous support from across the University, an incredible tutoring staff and an ongoing campaign aimed at encouraging students to seek academic support when they need it.

A seemingly simple change also played a pivotal role. Five years ago, when Malewicki arrived on the job, she saw a student walk into the Math Lab, obviously nervous about a first visit there.

“The tutors were all actively engaged with student sessions and had their backs to the door,” she said. “After a minute or so the student, looking mighty uncomfortable, turned and made a quick exit. I went running down the hall after him and encouraged him to come back.”

The CLR was redesigned with a new reception area, creating a space in keeping with their philosophy that the CLR is an oasis, a welcoming place for all students who seek academic support.

The Center is not about providing answers to questions three and five on that night’s homework or line-editing a student’s essay. “It’s about giving students the ability to go back into the classroom and pass the subject and go out into the field and apply it,” Malewicki said. 

In addition to professional tutors such as Zoghb, the center employs peer tutors, students who must maintain an A- average in a content area and who take part in a 15-hour accredited training program on how to tutor.

On a recent afternoon, Dylan Haenel ’15, a biotechnology major, and Alyssa Wynne ’15, a double major in forensic science and biology, prepared for a tutoring shift. Haenel often works with first-year students. “Sometimes it’s just that they have a few gaps in their knowledge of a subject from high school, and once they get the concept, they’re set,” he said.

Wynne tutors students in math, calculus, algebra and organic chemistry. “Some students come in and they just need a little guidance and to be reassured they are on the right track,” she said.

Wynne recalled a recent Sunday, working with a student on chemistry concept she had found challenging at one time. She broke the process down again and again. The student pressed on.  “Then he said, 'I totally get it!'” she said. “And that was awesome.”

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