Student shares how she found four years of support in a particular campus spot
Lindsay Wisnicky sat at her desk — eyes fixed on the 40 percent written in red ink at the top of her first math quiz. A UWL freshman at the time, Wisnicky was on a mission to become a physical therapist. She knew she needed good grades to get into graduate school. A crushing feeling came over her as tears formed in her eyes. “I knew how much work I’d put into it, and it didn’t pan out,” she remembers thinking.
But Wisnicky didn’t give up. She found her way to UWL’s Murphy Learning Center where she met UWL student tutors who were as dedicated to teaching as she was to learning. Wisnicky began to take her homework directly to the learning center to study for hours at a time, and ask questions of tutors as needed.
Over the last few years more academic department tutoring has come under the learning center umbrella, essentially consolidating tutoring across campus in one space — 251 Murphy Library, says Murphy Learning Center Director Lee Baines. Here students can find tutors for nearly all subjects from philosophy and physics to accountancy. The MLC also encompasses the Writing Center and Public Speaking Center. The center has also grown in popularity. In a typical academic year, about 25,000 students visit the learning center, and about 3,500 are unique visits — that’s about a third of all UWL students.
Baines says when students use the center frequently, he sees friendships develop between tutors and students. It’s not surprising, he adds.
“When we hire, we look for academically strong students, but also students who are good with other people — they must have those people skills,” says Baines.
Wisnicky found many strong tutors — and friends. They presented the information multiple ways, stuck with her when she was confused and even stayed after hours to continue helping her. The list of tutors who were formative in her four years at UWL is long. Many have now graduated but remain Facebook friends.
Among them is May graduate Tobias Nelson, ’17, who majored in physics and minored in math. He is now in a physics doctoral program at Montana State University.
“Lindsay was one of the most hardworking, disciplined, and sweetest students I tutored in the Learning Center,” he says.
He recalls how she would sometimes bring him snacks because he would often skip lunch before coming in for his tutoring shift. “One time, she even brought me a large bowl of homemade pasta she made the night before,” he says. “It was easy to form a friendship with such a kind person.”
Nelson and Layla Khalili, another long-time tutor and senior double majoring in biomedical physics and biology, recall how persistent Wisnicky was when the topics were difficult. When she got tired out, tutors encouraged her to go for a walk to clear her head before attempting a problem again.
Wisnicky also had friends from classes who were just as dedicated. They frequently came to the MLC together. Nelson would see her and some of her friends at the center for nearly every shift he worked. “They would build their schedules around the Learning Center hours and even come back after dinner or going to exercise,” he says.
Students who seek out tutoring are not necessarily struggling in their classes, notes Baines. Many get A’s in the courses, but still come as they find it a more efficient way to study. What students at the learning center have in common is they are ambitious and want to do better in classes, he says. “It’s an active way of studying versus reading by yourself,” he notes.
Tutors also benefit from the experience. Nelson says tutoring vastly reinforced his understanding of physics, as tutors must explain the same problem, solution, or core concept to students in multiple different ways. “This forces us to learn the material more rigorously than we did when we took the courses ourselves,” he says.
“Tutoring has solidified my knowledge in basic physics and has given me the satisfaction of helping others succeed — and maybe even grow to love physics,” she says.
Nelson also found an unexpected benefit as he applied to graduate school as many schools offer stipends and tuition funding to students in exchange for teaching undergraduate labs or recitation sections. Nelson thinks his teaching experience through tutoring gave him a competitive edge. “If you’re planning to go into graduate school, you should take advantage of every opportunity available to tutor in your field,” he says.
Wisnicky ended up scoring 80 percent on her first algebra exam and earned a B in the course. And her hard work paid off for her long-term goal too. She will graduate in May with a degree in exercise and sports science, and she was accepted into UWL’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy program.
“It feels very rewarding,” she says.
She encourages others to take advantage of the free resource at the learning center. “If I hadn’t gotten help, I wouldn’t be going to grad school.”
Need help with your studies?
Murphy Learning Center services are included in students’ tuition fees. Any student is welcome to walk in and get help. Learn more about the Murphy Learning Center.