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Stressed about finals? UA Think Tank is here to help

Chloe Hislop

Julie Bularzik, administrative associate for Think Tank, waits to check students in for their tutoring sessions. Think Tank offers free tutoring for students at the University of Arizona.

For more than 10 years, the University of Arizona’s Think Tank has been the go-to tutoring center for UA students. As the center finds itself consistently evolving, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Think Tank has no plans to slow down when it comes to ensuring students’ academic success.

Housed at the Bartlett Academic Success Center on the UA campus, Think Tank sees nearly 60,000 visits per year and is home to 10 academic services that aim to help students succeed throughout their academic journey. Some of the services include drop-in tutoring sessions, academic skills tutoring, exam prep and supplemental instruction. 

“The goal was to be able to centralize tutoring, academic support and coaching,” said Marco Ortiz, Think Tank’s director and current Ph.D. student in higher education. “So things that students would have to find around campus, [we wanted] for them to be able to find it all in one place.” 

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At Think Tank, students can drop in or schedule free tutoring sessions in math, science and business or join a free writing center workshop. Students can also participate in the writing center’s feedback loop, where students can upload a document and receive feedback from a peer tutor, according to Think Tank’s website.

“About 90% of our services are free,” Ortiz said. “That’s what a lot of students struggle with, they think everything is fee-based, you know, just because maybe they only heard about it [Think Tank], but it’s helpful to put into context that the majority of our services are actually free.” 

While most of the tutoring sessions are currently held online via Zoom, Think Tank began offering limited in-person services on March 26 and will continue to follow the UA’s campus reentry plan into the fall semester.

“We’re looking forward to being back with students in person and expanding our services,” said Nicci Ainuu, Think Tank’s administrative services manager. “With being online, we have been able to offer things that we’ve never offered before. We just started offering statistics tutoring and since I started here, students have been asking for that service and it’s really fun to be able to offer it now.”

Aside from traditional tutoring, Think Tank offers academic skills tutoring that helps students strengthen their study skills and techniques, such as organizational skills and time management, according to Ortiz.

Think Tank prides itself on creating a positive learning environment where students will become “successful lifelong learners,” according to its website

Both Ortiz and Ainuu said they agree that Think Tank is not just a temporary fix to help students ace an exam, but rather a tool that will benefit students in the long run of their academic careers by providing them with the skills and strategies to succeed in all of their future courses.

“All of our academic services are geared towards helping students improve overall as a learner,” Ainuu said. “That’s one of the benefits of coming here; you’re going to strengthen a lot of skills that you’ll use across all your classes, not just the one that you come in for help with.”

As the end of the semester nears and students begin to shift their focus on final exams, Ortiz recommended seeking Think Tank services as soon as possible. By seeking services sooner than later, Think Tank tutors and coordinators can ensure that students receive the help they need to succeed during finals week.

“Going toward finals, if this is the first time that you’re coming to us, we, of course, welcome you,” Ortiz said. “We can talk about and plan the best ways to study for that final exam.” 

Since its start, Think Tank has grown from 15 employees to nearly 45 staff members and almost 300 student workers. Think Tank hosts semi-annual job fairs where students can apply to become a tutor at the center. 

The most recent job fair was on March 16 and 17, but Think Tank will continue taking applications for the fall semester until the end of the spring semester, according to Ainuu.

By having student tutors, Ainuu said she hopes to break the stigma around tutoring and needing additional help when learning. 

“I feel like it [having student tutors] takes away some of the intimidation of having to ask for help because no one’s judging anyone,” Ainuu said. “We’re just there to help students feel confident about what they’re studying and their skills as a student.”

As Think Tank focuses on helping students finish the spring semester strong, it will continue to utilize student feedback to improve their program for future semesters while providing students with the skills and tools they need to enhance their learning abilities.

“Our goal is to be world-class. We set our expectations high and the way that we do that is we know we need to have a holistic approach to be able to meet students where they’re at,” Ortiz said. “And I think the way we do that is by having a wide array of services available. I think that’s what makes us different from other centers at other universities. Here at the university, it’s more of a one-stop-shop.”

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