All posts by Allison Souza, Class of 2013

The ARC Unveils Its New Home in Currier

Venture down to the dungeon of the library basement no longer! The Academic Resource Center (ARC) has officially opened their new home in the Currier Center. After about a year of planning and renovating, the Currier Center is newly transformed into a beautiful, refreshing environment to provide tutoring services for the campus body. Less than a month ago, on Monday April 8th, the red ribbon was officially cut to welcome the campus.

The new facility has wowed many from the college community. Many cannot believe the transformation of the former Fisher Institute. Not only has the layout and paint been completely changed, but group study rooms, a computer café and open tutoring areas, equip with white boards, have been added to the resource center. The center provides students an open venue where they can get one-on-one or group focused attention from their peers. This year the ARC served over 300 students. The new center also provides an area where students can gather with their groups and complete group projects – one of the greatest new features of this facility are its two group study rooms in addition to the study rooms the library offers.
The new facility welcomes its visitors with a reception desk framed by four oak pillars. The lobby is adorned with two padded benches for tutees while they wait for their appointment. There are two open spaces filled with tables and white boards for tutoring appointments. From the tutors perspective, the most exciting part of the new center is their tutor lounge where they can gather between appointments. Additionally, the new ARC facility provides tutors with a place to conduct peer tutor run workshops. One of the tutoring rooms features a setup for presentations, which has allowed tutors a consistent location where workshops will be run – already this month, tutors have utilized this space to conclude their writing workshop series with two workshops.

Marissa Loon, ARC director, and the twenty-two peer tutors, are thrilled with the ambiance of the new space. They find the space to not only be calming, but more inviting and also allows for better concentration. Many of the tutors have expressed how excited they are to have a home that will now be better known. When asked about the new ARC, Jon Natale states, “The new ARC gives students a place to get away from dorm life to focus on school while providing multiple resources.”

Nichols Hosts 19th Annual NEPTA Conference

Each year, since 1994, peer tutors gather to provide each other insights, encouragement and innovation for the promotion of better tutoring practices. The New England Peer Tutor Association, also known as NEPTA, annually sponsors an event allowing tutors to engage with each other and build their skillset. This conference is the only one of its kind – created for tutors by tutors. For the first time in almost a decade, Nichols had the opportunity to host this conference. This created an internship for one of Nichols top seniors, Crystal Dennison. Beginning in December, she dedicated herself, under the guidance of Academic Resource Center Director, Marissa Loon, to the planning and execution of this event.

Dennison, a graduating English major, has been a peer tutor at the Academic Resource Center, since her sophomore year. This year, as a senior, Dennison was selected as head tutor at the ARC – a position one qualifies for through their dedication and devotion to the center. In addition to her success as a peer tutor, Dennison has excelled in her academic endeavors and has been recognized on campus for her strong work ethic through scholarships and academic honors. Dennison exemplifies what it means to be a student leader and proved this even further through by ensuring that 2013’s NEPTA conference was a success.

Leading up to the conference, Dennison set aside time daily for planning and preparation. During this time, she completed tasks such as setting a theme for the event, assisting with any questions, handling paperwork, creating materials need for the day of, organizing and involving other peer tutors and keynote speakers and finalizing cosmetic and dining details. Throughout the semester, Dennison attended several meetings with Marissa Loon and Nichols’ Event and Conference Manager, Justin Dolan. In regards to Dolan, Dennison remarks, “He made it happen for me. Anything I needed, he had.”

On the day of the event, Saturday April 6th, 260 attendees (about 230 tutors and 30 administrators) from 28 institutions throughout New England, entered the Athletic Center to find a lobby masked with Clue themed decorations and registration set up. Once registered, attendees proceeded into the dining area to indulge in breakfast pastries, coffees, teas and juices. Following breakfast, the NEPTA Conference was kicked off with a welcome from Loon and an introduction from Dennison,  followed by keynote speeches from Nichols’ President Susan Engelkemeyer and William Boffi, Associate Dean of Student Success and Retention. Following the speeches, Dennison introduced the day, and attendees broke out into four 50-minute blocks of strategy-focused sessions.

Sessions included a compilation of presentation, hands on activity and discussion. In these sessions, a preselected group of peer tutors presented to an audience of peer tutors regarding tactical ways to deal with recurring themes or conflicts seen in their tutoring sessions. The conference format allows for participants to both gain the insights of others and share their insight. While some presentations focused on motivating tutees others took a more original approach and demonstrated the benefits of meditation through tutoring sessions. Overall, all presentations were extremely innovative.

Through the dedication and efforts of Dennison, Loon and Dolan, the 2013 NEPTA Conference was not only successful, but also beneficial for all attendees.

The Amazing Race (to Early Detection)

Cancer impacts the lives of many in one way or another – myself included. 15-40 Connection, local non-profit based in Westborough, Massachusetts, focuses on improving cancer survival rates by providing the community with resources to detect cancer in its earliest stages. Why might you ask? Simply because cancer survival rates amongst people between the ages of 15 and 40 have not improved since 1975 – a fact the organization is dedicated to addressing.

15-40 Connection, as stated in 15-40 Connection and Nichols Undergrads Refuse to Let Cancer Win, teamed up with Bryant Richards’ undergraduate event planning class in an effort to raise awareness of the organization, and their mission, through six events that called the campus and surrounding community to action. On Wednesday April 10th, the Nichols campus put on their running shoes and raced for the early detection of cancer in The Amazing Race (to Early Detection). The event, organized by myself and other Nichols’ seniors Kelly Vaillancourt and Alison Peplinski, along with Nichols’ junior Abby Gould, kicked off in the Fels Student Center lounge. Here teams gathered, were checked in and introduced to the organization’s mission. In addition, to make the event more personal and relatable, I provided a video highlighting my personal story of a genetic mutation, which causes high risk for breast and ovarian cancer, prior to the start of the race.

The race consisted of eight secret information locations that combined both physical and intellectual skill, to both find and complete a task at each information location The race incorporated social media by creating a Twitter hash tag (#FindMe1540) where participants were required to send pictures of themselves at each stop in the race. This hash tag allowed viewers, inside the Fels lounge or from anywhere really, to witness teams’ progress as they were out racing – one of the most entertaining portions of the race. The race featured prizes for the first three teams to finish, which kept the event highly competitive. In less than 45 minutes the three winning teams had already completed the race. The remaining volunteers, event coordinators and I cheered for participants as they started returning. Mary Fehr, Taylor Brown and Stacey McGrath finished the race first securing a $90 cash prize while Megan Woodruff, Alex Cifone and Anna Dyakiv completed the race seconds later. The second place team won three $15 gift cards to Jimmy’s Pizza. The third place team, Kat Floridia, Andrew Pfeffer and Nick Saint Jean, came in directly behind the second place team and won three $10 gift cards to Yummy’s Chinese. All winners were ecstatic over their success. Like the real race to detection the key is participation by all.

Overall, The Amazing Race (to Early Detection) was enjoyed by all. Participants continued to tweet to the FindMe1540 hash tag following the race regarding their enjoyment, the wonderful cause they had supported and their desire for more events like this to happen on the Nichols campus.