The CAVE: A Bright Spot for Student Success

Tue Dec 11, 2018 at 09:08 AM

ESL instructor Bill Hopkins with Aracely Gonzalez in The C.A.V.E.

ESL instructor Bill Hopkins (r) with Aracely Gonzalez

The Center for Academic Vision and Excellence, better known as The CAVE, has become a “community within the campus community” since its debut in the spring semester of 2012. Staffed with many adjuncts and eight peer tutors, The CAVE is the place to go for students who need help with writing and math skills, or subject-area tutoring in almost every class offered at BRCC. This semester alone has seen 800 unique tutoring sessions.

“For some students, working with a tutor may be the difference between passing and failing a course and ultimately attaining a degree,” says Kyle McCarrell, head librarian and tutoring coordinator. “This is not lost on our tutors who work hard to ensure that everyone is valued.”

Bill Hopkins, an adjunct teaching ESL, says The CAVE fills a critical need for students who are struggling, but it’s also a valuable asset for every student who needs a quiet place to study, to meet with a group, or to attend a faculty-led test review session. During his 20 hours a week there, he not only meets with his own students but also assists many others with fine-tuning essays or scholarship submissions.

“There is an avalanche of need that builds during the semester,” says Hopkins. “It culminates as research projects are due and students are interested in bringing up grades. The CAVE is THE place to be! It has really blossomed into its own community.”

Mayumi Smitka is one of the in-demand peer tutors who has been tutoring for four semesters. This semester she’s worked with more than 50 students. Smitka already holds a bachelor’s degree but came to BRCC to take prerequisite courses for a career change to become a physician assistant.

Peer Tutor Mayumi Smitka with Cheyenne Kennedy in The C.A.V.E.

Mayumi Smitka (l) with Cheyenne Kennedy

The CAVE shows that “student success is clearly a priority at BRCC,” Smitka notes. “Lots of friendships have started in The CAVE among people who wouldn't have met at BRCC otherwise. I enjoy it most when I tutor several different subjects in a day. The variety keeps me on my toes!”

Cheyenne Kennedy meets with Smitka consistently twice a week for help with Anatomy and Physiology. She began working on a Career Studies Certificate in Medical Coding in May 2017, just a few weeks after having her daughter. Her goals are to begin working in that field, while continuing her studies in the Emergency Medical Services program.

“BRCC’s best attribute would definitely be Mayumi. She is amazing!” says Kennedy. “Mayumi has helped me reach a "C" in my current class that I have already taken twice. Her schedule fits with mine and if she’s available before my scheduled time, she will email me and let me know to come earlier.”

The CAVE is located in A110 and is open five days a week. Students can email tutoring@brcc.edu to make an appointment, or call 540-453-2289.