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Academic Success Center

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In the Spotlight Continued


ASC Helps Student Meet Honors Program Requirements

Through taking an ASC course, junior and first-generation student Megan Burciaga learned study methods and increased her GPA.

By Sydnie Harrell, Office of Undergraduate Studies


As a first-generation student, junior Megan Burciaga wasn’t sure what to expect in college. In addition to majoring in biology, she was accepted in the University Honors Program and signed up for two labs and a math course for her first semester at Texas A&M University. 
“I didn’t have much of an idea of what college would be like,” Burciaga said. “I didn’t know how to apply my learning from high school to college. I could just memorize things and just spit it out on the test.” 
Not far into her freshman year, Burciaga realized that the memorization habits she had come to rely on were not going to work for her college classes. Her grades began to slip, and by the end of the semester, her GPA was below the Honors Program requirements.
“Being in the University Honors Program, they require a 3.5 GPA, and my very first semester here I made a 3.0,” Burciaga said. “The Honors Program recommended that I take an Academic Success [Center] (ASC) course or workshop.” 
Burciaga signed up for Application of Learning Theories to College Studies with academic coach Megan McClure, who has a doctorate in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication. In the credit-bearing course, Burciaga learned about the importance of a planner, how to use Bloom’s taxonomy and how to create a 5-Day Study Plan
“Megan was very interested in being the best student she could be,” McClure said. “She took the information from our class and implemented it in her other classes immediately. She was excited to get the most out of her courses and better prepare herself for dental school.”
After she learned what study methods worked for her, Burciaga’s increased her GPA to a 3.6. She also had more time to think about her goal to have a career in dentistry. In her Introduction to Biology II class and at her summer job, she developed an interest in entomology but didn’t know if she could still apply for dental school if she changed her major.
“Being first-generation, I thought biology was the only way to get into dental school,” Burciaga said. “I learned with Dr. McClure that your major doesn’t always equal your career path. That was when I switched into the world of entomology.” 
Since taking the ASC course, Burciaga acted as a Hullabaloo U peer mentor for McClure, and she presented about creating a meaningful experience as a peer mentor at the Hullabaloo U Instructor Symposium in May 2021. Burciaga is set to graduate with honors in 2023 and plans to attend dental school in Texas. 
“[The ASC] helped me… learn how to grow as a student, and I was able to go my freshman year and increase my GPA,” Burciaga said. “I do recommend that people use the Academic Success Center not only academically but also morally. Everyone is always super friendly and encouraging there.” 

If you feel the Academic Success Center has helped you be more successful in college, we want to hear about it! Complete this form and tell us about your awesome accomplishments.

Archived Stories

Marissa's Success Story

By Anna Transue


Marissa Sandoval, a student, holds a sign that reads "I found my success with the Academic Success Center"Meet Marissa Sandoval, a Junior from Rosanky, TX, and one of many student success stories we see come through our office. In the fall of ’19, Marissa came to the Academic Success Center knowing she needed to get her grades up, but didn’t really understand how. She met with one of our academic coaches, Dr. Rob Dixon, and told him honestly how she felt discouraged about her major. Dr. Dixon worked with her to identify her values. From that simple exercise, she learned about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation and the impact it had on her choices.

As a first-generation college student, she had chosen her major because she felt it would make the most of the opportunity her parents had worked so hard to give her. That exercise also helped her to realize she really wanted a career helping special-needs children. Marissa decided to set that as her goal. However, to become a Special Ed teacher, she needed to change majors—a long shot because of her GPA.

Dr. Dixon worked with her to articulate clear, specific, long-term, intermediate, and short-term goals. We’re proud to say she worked hard and raised her cumulative GPA from a 1.88 to a 2.51 in one semester by earning a 3.75 GPA by the end of fall ’19! 

Here a few words of genuine gratitude Marissa sent in an email to Dr. Dixon celebrating her big win:

“This is Marissa Sandoval and I'd like to thank you for everything you've done for me! I am proud to say I am now an EC-6 Education major with a 2.51 GPA! I am so happy to have met you and share my struggles with you! Your listening ears helped me work through my tough times….I am so blessed to have had you on my path to success! I will forever be grateful for you!”

At the Academic Success Center, we believe that it’s OK to fail—it’s what you do afterwards that matters. Marissa, we're proud of you and happy we could be a part of your success story!

Congratulations to our Tutoring Program Coordinator, Lindsey Randolph, for earning the Student Employment Impact Award given by the Scholarships and Financial Aid Office. This award recognizes the outstanding contributions of a Texas A&M faculty or staff member who has had a profound impact on a student employee or student employment as a whole.
“I feel honored to receive this award,” said Randolph.  “My connections with my student employees are of the utmost importance to me and I cannot express how sweet their words and opinions are.” 
Randolph has been working for the Academic Success Center for almost 5 years. She currently works with a team of 40 student tutors and 2 student assistants. In previous years, before the tutoring and Supplemental Instruction programs were split, Randolph had overseen both programs and supervised more than 165 student workers.
“One of the primary duties in my position is to include the students so they truly feel like team members, and in order to do so I strive to value their input, create an atmosphere where they feel they can come to me with anything, and make every student feel valued,” said Randolph.
The timing of this award could not have been better as stress levels have been higher lately due to COVID-19 changes at the university. Randolph worked closely with her student workers and ASC administrative staff to successfully coordinate the transition of 320 weekly face-to-face tutoring hours to an online format.
“On tough days, I revisit the words of those who have already graduated, and their words of thanks motivate me to keep going,” said Randolph.  
A few days after receiving the award, Randolph received an unsolicited letter of gratitude from one of her current tutors, Marco Rodriguez. “Not only are you great at your job, but you make everybody else around you great as well,” said Rodriguez. “It goes without saying that you are a great 'boss'.”
ASC staff member, Ann Stebbins, was one of 25 recipients of the President’s Meritorious Service Award. This competitive award is highly prestigious and is only given to employees who have demonstrated their commitment to the Aggie core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service.
“Being selected to receive the President's Meritorious Service Award will be a highlight of my time working at Texas A&M but the best part is being able to help students achieve academic success and getting to work with and learn from all of the amazing staff of the Academic Success Center,” said Stebbins.
Stebbins works with the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) Program and has been at the ASC since 2009. She meets regularly with students one-on-one to help guide them through their academic struggles.
Her commitment to the Aggie community and her work is palpable. “I am proud to be a staff member at Texas A&M since the core values of the university are ones I share and have been taught by my parents, my Catholic faith and my Army training,” said Stebbins.  “I did not attend Texas A&M, but I have been married to an Aggie for 33 years and I raised 4 Aggies (class of 12, 15, 18 and 20) so I feel I am a part of the Aggie family.”
Coworkers who know Stebbins confirm her dedication to the Aggie core values. “She has a heart for our Aggies and, after raising all four of her children as Aggies, she has a depth of knowledge unsurpassed by none,” said Sharon Haigler, her supervisor. “The Academic Success Center is certainly fortunate to have such a dedicated worker, but I feel especially privileged to have her on my Texas Success Initiative team.”
Congratulations to Tyler Laughlin, one of our Academic Coaches, for winning the New Advisor Award given by University Advisors and Counselors (UAC). According to the UAC website, the award recognizes new professional advising staff who “embody the spirit of caring, compassionate, skillful advisement, and genuine concern for the welfare of individual students.”
Laughlin, who has worked at the Academic Success Center (ASC) as an Academic Coach for just over two years, said he felt honored to win the award. “While it was great to win an individual award, it really reflects all of the great advice and assistance I have received from my colleagues over the past
two years.”
One of his colleagues, Julie Hurley, praised Laughlin’s dedication to his students noting, “Tyler has a genuine interest in seeing students achieve personal growth and academic success. It is not uncommon for his students to perceive him as a mentor and confidant.”
Jorja Vela, class of ’22 and a Kinesiology major, describes his experience working with Tyler over the past four semesters saying, “He has served not only as my academic success coach, but also as my accountability partner, greatest motivator, confidant, and biggest fan. Never in my life have I felt as invested in as I do when meeting with Tyler”
In addition to working individually with students, Laughlin has contributed noteworthy ideas to the campus community. Academic Coaching Director, Lyle Slack, says “His out-of-the-box thinking has led to many innovative practices in the area of online coaching and First Year Experience (FYE) classroom instruction at our institution.”
Most notably, Laughlin created a GRIT workshop to help students on academic probation understand and deal with some of the root causes of academic underperformance. The workshop focuses on fear of failure, resiliency, and a growth mindset within an academic setting.
Laughlin says he often brings the topics from the GRIT workshop into his coaching sessions. “One of the most important things is getting students to realize that failing at a task is an integral part of learning.” He says he even brings his own stories of failure into coaching sessions as a way to model perspective on learning.
In a letter of support, Vela writes about the impact Laughlin has had. “In him I have been lucky enough to find the greatest support system on our campus, and I cannot even articulate how blessed that leaves me feeling.”

Garrett's Success Story

By Anna Transue


Garrett-Gallagher-(1).jpgMeet Garrett Gallagher, class of ’19, from Orange Grove, Texas. Garrett’s college success story is like many other college students’ stories. For Garret, success required determination, honesty, and conquering his own mental hurdles.
After being readmitted to Texas A&M and switching his major to Agricultural Systems Management, Garrett’s GPA had taken a hit and was now sitting at a 1.38. Admittedly, Garrett never enjoyed taking notes during class, and he wasn’t asking any questions. He believed that he could figure everything out on his own, since that seemed to work for him in high school.
After his academic advisor said he needed serious help now that he had been readmitted to Texas A&M, Garrett started working one-on-one with Dr. Morgan Jones, one of our academic coaches. However, his confidence was shaky due to his past performance. “That first semester I worked with Morgan, I had confidence I could do it, but it wasn’t that great,” said Garrett.  
Together, they identified opportunities for improvement. Dr. Jones worked with him on implementing study and learning tips that had a big impact on his learning like effective note taking, proper time management, and active study strategies.
But mostly she served as an affirming accountability partner. “Really he just needed a bit of encouragement that myself and his academic advisor were more than happy to provide,” said Dr. Jones.
After meeting regularly the first semester, Garrett’s GPA went up and so did his confidence. “It finally made me feel like I was going from an average college student to a successful college student,” said Garrett.
Working with Dr. Jones at the Academic Success Center helped him to slowly change his mindset and his behavior. Garrett’s academic performance improved significantly in the following semesters. He earned an average 3.36 GPA for all the classes he took after returning to Texas A&M and he was able to raise his cumulative GPA by 1.33 points!
Upon graduating, Garrett emailed Dr. Jones a few words of genuine gratitude:
“Thank you for believing in me when I came back to A&M! Your help played a big role in my success and I am extremely thankful that God let you be a part of my life two years ago! 
Now I am off to go work for H-E-B in San Antonio doing logistics for their transportation operation! 
Good luck to you and I hope that you're able to continue being that support system for students like myself that need the extra support and guidance but may not always admit it!”
At the Academic Success Center, we believe that it’s OK to fail—it’s what you do afterwards that matters. Garrett, we're proud of you and happy we could be a part of your success story!

First-Gen Student Overcomes Academic Obstacles

Junior Nicholas Urtado reflects on how the Academic Success Center helped him change his mindset

By Sydnie Harrell, Office of Undergraduate Studies


First-generation student Nicholas Urtado came to Texas A&M University with the goal to be successful so he could make a positive impact for himself and his family. In the summer of 2019, he traveled to campus for the first time for his New Student Conference and was in awe.

When classes started that fall, Urtado’s struggles with schoolwork manifested quickly. As a true freshman, the geophysics major felt unprepared in his science and math classes; it didn't help that he had three labs to balance.

“I thought I was learning,” Urtado said. “But, whenever it would come to the test, I would just look at the questions and be like ‘Wow. Maybe I didn’t learn anything at all.' ” 

After receiving multiple low grades, Urtado started to lose motivation and struggled to do his schoolwork. The unexpected difficulties caused by the workload of college negatively impacted his mindset.

“I put myself in a mental box of failure,” Urtado said. “[I thought] ‘Everything you study or do is not going to matter because the outcome is going to be the same thing, and that’s you not doing good.” 

At the end of his first semester, Urtado was placed on academic probation and began working with the Academic Success Center to try and improve his standing with the college. 

Urtado started attending group academic coaching sessions and found he could relate to students in similar situations. He started to feel hopeful for his academic career. During the group coaching sessions, Urtado learned about the “5-Day Study Plan.” Once he implemented the plan’s spaced-out study approach into his test-preparation habits, he started to see results. 

“I was breaking out of the mental box I put myself in,” Urtado said. “I was thinking ‘Maybe I can do this. I see my purpose again.’ Everything was coming back together slowly but surely.” 

Urtado remained in the College of Geoscience and is set to graduate in 2023. After graduation, he hopes to attend graduate school or find an internship with a gas or petroleum company. Through this experience, he regained his confidence and motivation. 

“I know I can be here, and I know I have a reason to be here,” Urtado said. “I have a lot to prove.” 

At the Academic Success Center, we believe that it’s OK to fail—it’s what you do afterwards that matters. Nicholas, we're proud of you and happy we could be a part of your transformation!

Senior Receives Support, Guidance from ASC

During social distancing, Lalita Gadam used the Academic Success Center's resources to learn how to manage her time and study efficiently.

By Sydnie Harrell, Office of Undergraduate Studies


Senior Lalita Gadam, a fifth-year multidisciplinary engineering technology major, aspires to make an impact in the aerospace industry while surrounding herself with a positive environment and maintaining her happiness.
“My goal in life is to [make] the people around me happy,” Gadam said. “My career goal is that I’ve always wanted to work in aerospace. I love the possibility of improving engineering.”
Gadam transferred to Texas A&M from the University of Texas at San Antonio during her sophomore year. Immediately, she felt like the Aggie environment was a fit for her, and she continued to work towards pursuing her career goal.
“I used to go to a different university, and when I transferred here, it felt like there was a whole world of opportunity waiting for me,” Gadam said. “A&M has opened so many avenues to better my career.”
During her first year at Texas A&M, Covid-19 hit and Gadam’s goal of surrounding herself with uplifting people became almost impossible to do. She struggled with spending all her time in her room and lost her motivation to do her schoolwork.
“After Covid-19, it was hard to keep in contact with my support system,” Gadam said. “Sitting in my room all day does not sound fun to anyone, so I wanted to use the Academic Success Center (ASC) to help me manage my time better so I’m not burnt out.”
Gadam reached out to the ASC in the fall of 2020. She was looking for motivation, time management skills and study advice to maintain her GPA to help get an internship. For three months, Gadam worked with Academic Coach Brittany Szabuniewicz to become more organized and inspired.
“From the moment I started working with Lalita it was very evident that she is an ambitious student who is willing to make the necessary changes for not only academic improvement but personal growth as well,” Szabuniewicz said. “After working with Lalita, I have no doubt that she will succeed in whatever she does.”
“What I learned about myself is that I don’t have to do everything at one go, especially since I have so much starting trouble,” Gadam said. “Tell yourself it’s just ten minutes of going through the assignment and make a plan, and then things are less scary.”
Gadam also learned how to incorporate free time into her schedule. She limited the amount of time she spent on schoolwork so she could find time to be involved in the Women in Engineering (WE) program and do fun activities.
“I made sure to I was doing things that were fulfilling for me in that day, not just planning an entire day of studying,” Gadam said. “I really put a priority on things other than school, things that make me happy.”
By strengthening her time management skills, Gadam took Brittany Oliver’s advice to study with one other person instead of a group to help her learn the material more efficiently. By doing this, Gadam maintained her GPA and got two internships: one during spring 2021 with Trane Technologies and one during summer 2021 with Collins Aerospace.
“Over the summer, I interned with Collins Aerospace,” Gadam said. “We worked on a spacesuit design because NASA sent out a proposal, and Collins answered it. I was working on putting sensors onto the system so like a fan for the components and for the astronaut, [and] a heart rate monitor.”
Gadam also received a full-time job offer from Collins Aerospace following her internship. She plans to move to Houston after graduation to work for Collins; while there, she hopes to work with her mentor to get involved in volunteering with children, especially girls interested in STEM.
“Everyone should do what makes them happy, even if it’s hard–especially if it’s hard,” Gadam said. “You’re more capable than you think and putting yourself in situations that are going to make you grow [is] very important for people our age."