Oswego State to host tutoring conference

Oswego State will be hosting the eighth annual TACT conference on Saturday, April 25 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Training Association for College Tutors, TACT, is an invitation-only conference overseen by faculty and student members of the Office of Learning Services. This Saturday marks the second time Oswego State has hosted the conference in its eight-year run.

However, in the wake of several years of notably reduced attendance, lead organizer Steven Smith of the Office of Learning Services says boosting university participation was a primary focus during the organizational process of the 2015 conference.

“The last one would have been held at Tompkins Community College and the numbers were down for some reason,” Smith said. “A group of those of us who are professionals, we got together and we tried to have a conversation during that conference as to why maybe the numbers were a bit low.”

According to Smith, this involved not only changing the time of year the conference would meet from the fall to the spring semester, but also required more thorough research of the tutoring programs provided by other SUNY schools.

“If I did my homework well, I found about 60 of the 64 SUNY schools have some kind of tutorial services, which surprised me,” Smith said. “I didn’t realize that we had that in the SUNY system; the majority of our schools offer tutorial services. And the majority of those schools, after I did my homework, seem to use peers, like we do here, for tutoring.”

With 13 schools officially attending, eight of which are scheduled to present, Smith said he has high hopes for the future of the conference.

“Our theme is this BEACON, the lighthouse–Building Enriching Academic Connections,” Smith said. “So I think that the ultimate goal is to try to achieve those connections and keep those connections ongoing from year to year as we continue this TACT conference.”

For some students, the conference and the connections Smith hopes it will facilitate, offer not only a place to exchange ideas, but also to express their passion for tutoring and teaching.

Jessica Randall, senior English major and student organizer, said she worked closely with Smith to coordinate this year’s conference. Randall was a member of Oswego State’s presentation team at the last TACT conference, held at Tompkins Cortland CC, but this year she’s taken on a more involved role.

“I’m kind of a little bit of everything during this conference,” Randall said. “I’m doing registration, I’m assisting with opening ceremony, closing ceremony, as well as presenting, doing technical assistance and being a facilitator.”

Randall considers herself very dedicated to the program and credits her passion for teaching and learning to five and a half years of tutoring experience. Last year, her presentation focused on the importance of building relationships on campus. The positive reception it received, she said, was the inspiration for the theme of this year’s conference.

“The direction for our presentation last year was the idea of making connections across the campus. So, how do you bridge all those different gaps that we don’t tend to think about until they’re right in front of us,” Randall said.

As a student organizer, Randall will once again present at the conference, this time focusing on sharing her experiences her working with English language learners.

Being a part of the conference, Randall said, facilitates the exchange of ideas between faculty, professionals and students like herself.

Executive Assistant to the president Howard Gordon plans to speak to this point as the conference’s keynote speaker.

“I’m someone who goes to conferences and conferences are exciting,” Gordon said.  “I hope students are excited, because it’s a student conference. You know, you’re sort of learning as a paraprofessional–what is this sort of work all about.”

Gordon said his previous experience as an undergraduate history tutor has given him a special appreciation for the skills that peer-tutoring provides, both on the active and receiving ends.

“I certainly know that the things that I learned in OLS when I worked both as a tutor as a undergraduate student, and then later as a part time counselor, are still skills that I use everyday in the job that I have here as the Executive Assistant to the president,” Gordon said.

According to Gordon, the conference and tutoring in general potentially offer students a chance to authentically experience their specialties beyond the boundaries of the campus.

By participating, not only in the presentation but in the organization of the event, Gordon said, many students get their first taste of sharing their material with others and running an event.

“A conference is really about learning about sort of the trends and the changes in the field and what other people are doing in other places, and what doesn’t work, and what are challenges,” Gordon said. “Then it is also about getting up and presenting the things that you’ve been working on.