Center of Excellence for Teaching & Learning

CETL Podcast - Episode 1 - Ammon Harris

Tony Pellegrini: Good morning guys, Tony Pellegrini here. I've got Ammon Harris from Southern Utah University's ACES with us today talking with us about teaching and learning at SUU and he's going to be focusing on learning today. We're appreciative of your participation and listening to our podcast about teaching and learning at SUU. So Ammon, could you take a moment or two to tell us a little about ACES, what is this ACES and then just a little bit about how you've been successful as a learner here at SUU?

Ammon Harris: Absolutely, so the ACES program it's actually a newer, rather innovative program, for incoming students especially. But then it's kind of more for any any student that goes to Southern Utah University. Aces is actually an acronym and it stands for Assistant Coach for Excellence and Success. So what we do is we’re assigned about a hundred or some odd students to be kind of their mentor and their liaison between incoming students who's been in high school then into college. Because you know there's a massive shift and it's a life-changing difference between what it's like to be a high school student and a college student. You know for most of the time you're not looking to parents anymore. You have to start paying for things on your own. There's a lot of different things that a lot of people don't realize when they come into college. So they get a mentor and that's an ACE and so there's about 20 of us and we have 100 to 110 students. We help them with almost anything, well anything from tutoring math, to you know sometimes even if it's like relationship issues or there's people are having issues, you know finding friends or anything like that. We're just there to kind of be their mentor coming into school.

TP: Let me let me interrupt just for a second, because I'm curious. My gosh a hundred a hundred and ten people you're mentoring. How do you keep up with that? That to me sounds like a full-time job!

AH: Yeah well luckily, my boss, Eric Kirby, and Ryan Bailey they both try and help us out quite a bit. I think the main thing that we try and do is just make sure we focus on those that probably need our help the most. Not that we are just kind of like, pick and choose favorite ones and that's nothing like that. But I think it's when it comes to 110 students, you recognize that you know, we can't spend 24 hours on 110 students every single day and that's unrealistic. So it's a little bit of trying to make sure you know there's those that that might be needing a little bit more help and trying to help them. Then there's maybe a few others that because you know but they're already connected, it's I think the big thing that we try and hope for, just make sure that every student feels some sort of connection online or not online. I mean, not online, just some sort of connection with someone at SUU and so if you know there's someone that we know, that it's super involved with student programming board, or you know it's something else. Well hey, I hope you're okay you know, feel free to come talk to me if you need anything. But we want to focus our efforts we've done on those that are feeling a little bit lonely or especially those who know that we're struggling with some sort of mental disorder or anything like that. Because they've disclosed it to us not that we would know that otherwise.

TP: Wonderful! Makes total sense to me, total sense. Tell us a little bit Ammon, you've been a student here at SUU how long? What are some of the skills, the learning skills, the study skills, the connecting skills to professors and to content that you practiced and that you've been successful with? Can you tell us some?

AH: So my first year, this is, I'm going into my third year. Luckily I'm gonna be able to graduate this year, so I'm a little bit, not as traditional. But my first year, I was told the best thing that you can do as a student is to recognize that a big part of college is preparation for your job. A lot of jobs work from 9:00 to 5:00 and so if you treat that time like you would school and that would be the best thing that you can do. So if you're from the hours of 9:00 to 5:00 maybe with an exception of an hour of lunch, if you're in class then you're doing school. If you're not in class, then you’re in the library doing school. And so it's focused just on those hours during school work just like you would in regular job 9:00 to 5:00. My second year, I got a part-time job so I wasn't able to focus as much and I started staying after. But I still tried to dedicate at least those eight hours a day to school. So maybe it meant that I was in the library a little bit later than five o'clock or anything like that. I think that's the one advice that I heard that helped me out a lot. When it comes to connecting to my professors, I don't think anyone ever told me this. But I remember at the end of high school like the semester or the year ends and there's kind of like a moment with your teacher where you're like hey like I really, you know, I appreciate you! There's part of a moment of like goodbye, but in college there wasn't that. It was like, oh it just ended this is kind of sad. I remember my first semester, I went and I sent email just saying thank you to all my professors like thank you for this semester, I really appreciate it all you have done. I didn't know, that didn't help right then at the time, but it helped a ton later because when I had that same professor again they knew me. They like, I guess it's not everyone does that! I thought everyone said “thank you for the class”. That helped out a ton, just a moment of gratitude for the time, for your professor. Office hours are big! Every professor has an office hour and has at least five office hours a week and so that was something that I took advantage of. I struggled with astronomy my sophomore year. I took it because I thought it'd be fun and then it was really hard. So I went into Dr. Pace’s office pretty much every week.

TP: That is really cool, one little follow-up question I'd love you to address. You mentioned in that 9 to 5 schedule if there was extra time you went into the library. What, how did the library treat you? How did the librarians treat you and your fellow students? Is that a comfortable place to study is a comfortable place to connect with your content? Can you talk to us a little about that?

AH: Yeah, for sure. I didn't actually see any of the librarians when you first walked in and I think a big part of it is recognizing it. I think at every school it’s different but at SUU every floor is a little bit different as to what kind of study rules there are. So first floors, lab computer lab. Second floors, quiet level floors. Third floor is the loud level. So I kind of just depended on what I needed to get done. If I had a group study I go third floor. Second floor, I'd go to if I, you know had to get some reading in or some homework or I’d go to the basement. As far as like it feeling welcoming. I mean it's a building just dedicated to studying so when I walked in and I had to study, I knew that everybody in it was kind of doing that. There wasn't like a distraction all the time. Well maybe stay away from the third floor if you need to get stuff done, but it's kind of more of like a just an atmosphere for like that environment I guess and so that's why I choose the library because sometimes people wanna go study in their own time or something like that. It was like conducive for study and so does that answer your question?

TP: Absolutely, absolutely, it’s just, you know some may not you know, they think, all I'm gonna be required to do something in the library specific. But it's great to be able to hear those connections. Our time’s about up, Ammon, any last minute words of advice or suggestion to learners as what they could do to really succeed at being a learner here at SUU?

AH: It's just that like, I think a lot of times people see college as a job preparation course. It's a four-year prep, to get into a good job, two years of just classes that I don't want to take. Generals is what we call them and then two years into my actual degree and that's good. I think there's a great push that the ACES are doing and that a lot of the people in the Student Success services are trying to do. It's just learning to learn and recognizing that the student can try and get an A or you can learn how to learn and learn that learning extends much beyond just after you get your degree. So oftentimes people see college is just an opportunity to get a degree and then to get to what I need to go. That's great but I think it's more than a mental buffet and only ordering your favorite food that's great. You get your fill, you enjoy it but there's so many more opportunities that you're missing. Do learn how to learn. Learn that okay I get that you know this might not apply to my life. In English, I learned that when I study and I can write an essay that's gonna apply to my life later on in life. Because then I can figure out how to research and even though I'm a math-minded student I can know how to research to find things and like take a bunch of information and condense it down to what I really need or something like that. That's the first thing when it comes to learning how to learn. The second thing I just want to say that I think is important is finding some sort of intentional connection on campus. College is hard, sometimes especially if you live away from home, if you're not with parents, or your high school friends, and you come to college. I came by myself. I'm from the Salt Lake area. So I came down to Cedar City about four hours away and it was probably the best thing that could have happened. I was to be by myself for three weeks. I was feeling like I didn't have a ton of friends or that I didn't really know anybody. But then pushing myself to just say “Hi, I’m Ammon. What’s your name?”. Then it kind of helped and it helped grow to the point of you know people actually want friends and you need that. People actually try to be friendly, so going out actually trying to do things that matter and extending the hands sometimes. Even though you might be going through a hard time, you could be the difference in someone else's hard time as well. So those are two things that stand out!

TP: I appreciate you! You're a great great learner and a great person to be involved with. So keep up doing what you're doing! Friends tune back in for our next session with teachers and with students at SUU to discover what's going on with teaching and learning here at SUU. Thank you Ammon! I appreciate you! Keep up the good work! We are excited to see you graduate next spring!