Hometown: St. Charles, MO
When I returned to college in 2011, thirteen years had passed since I last sat in a classroom. Skipping the long story about my past failure with college, I walked in the door on day one, with little confidence and plenty of doubt. Well, as it turns out, my first year back was a success based on many factors, some related to my commitment and others related to the culture of learning at Fort Lewis College.
In that first year, I joined one of the many student support organizations on campus: the STEM3 Student Success Center. STEM3 works with income eligible first generation students who are pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. For me, being part of STEM3 gave me access to free tutoring and mentoring from an advisor, separate from my faculty advisor. During my freshman and sophomore years, I took advantage of tutoring for each of my classes and the confidence that grew out of the one-on-one tutoring sessions quickly translated to my academic success. After having such a positive experience as a tutee, I started tutoring my sophomore year for STEM3. My role as a tutor gave me the opportunity to give back to the campus community. The impact STEM3 has had in my life personifies the culture of learning at Fort Lewis. As a whole, people actually care if you succeed.
So, what if you’re not eligible for an organization like STEM3? Don’t sweat it. I mean that. Finding accessible and free tutoring at Fort Lewis is one of the easier things you’ll do as a student. Fort Lewis has a tutoring center which serves the entire student body and most departments arrange for drop-in tutors who are available during the week. Additionally, you can find free tutoring at the Native American Center, El Centro, Algebra Alcove, Writing Center, Math Assistance Center, etc. Faculty have six office hours a week where you can walk in the door and just ask for help. They actually enjoy helping. Classroom size is small, which means I get to know my classmates and in many classes study groups naturally coalesce.
What about the advising I mentioned above? Back when I was 18, my faculty advisor at a state school in Missouri didn’t really know who I was. The advice offered was tone deaf; it lacked context. You’ve probably noticed the theme by now; at Fort Lewis, my experience was the exact opposite. My faculty advisor, Dr. Ron Estler, is not only a great scientist but he’s also been a patient person who listens to me and gives meaningful advice. Actually, I consider most, if not all, of the Chemistry department my faculty advisors. Each of the professors takes an interest and offers encouragement or advice along my path. That collective engagement is what is special about Fort Lewis.
For me, Fort Lewis has been a great place to live and a better place to learn. It’s also a place with amazing powder days, wild mountains, and nights filled with dreams of epic spring melts and the roar of the river.