MOUNT OLIVE - Regina Stone-Hernandez, director of Peer Learning Programs at University of Mount Olive, is a woman on a mission. She wants University of Mount Olive students to take responsibility for their own education and to succeed in their efforts.
“There is a tremendous need at University of Mount Olive to form an academic intervention program that did not wait for students to fail; rather, a strategy where students were equipped for success: a proactive rather than reactive emphasis to learning,” Stone-Hernandez said.
Through the College’s SI (Supplemental Instruction) program or LAP (Learning Accountability Program) Stone-Hernandez hopes that students can stride confidently across the stage on graduation day, safe in the knowledge that they have squeezed every ounce of potential out of their college time. However, neither of these programs is a tutoring service. From day one, it is made very clear that students are being given the tools, techniques, and motivation to succeed and not simply being guided through a class.
According to Stone-Hernandez, SI is attached to historically challenging courses in the general education lineup. SI facilitates an environment where trained peer mentors engage weekly with students to provide activities and exercises for collaborative learning in specific courses. “In short, SI teaches students how to learn – not what to learn,” Stone-Hernandez said.
Since its inception SI has had great success. “In many cases students with failing grades have bumped their scores up several letter marks after participating in SI,” said Stone-Hernandez.
However, SI is not just helping the students being guided. SI is run by recruited and trained student peer mentors, and they are reaping the benefits as well. Many of the peer-mentors feel they are developing better study and learning habits, as well as becoming more confident leaders - skills that later transfer into the workplace.
While SI focusses on traditionally challenging courses and aims at the general student population, LAP (Learning Accountability Program) focusses on at-risk learners. Stone-Hernandez notes that students can be referred in a number of ways, be it academic probation, referrals by professors or coaches, or simply by a student accepting that there is a problem and signing up for help. “The basis for LAP is to redirect a student, and give the confidence to rise from failure or adversity and succeed academically,” Stone-Hernandez said. “It teaches responsibility for the student’s own learning, and progress is monitored throughout the semester. Learners are trained in time management and goal setting, and are required to partake in study hall five hours a week.”
Stone-Hernandez noted that the success of the program is already clear. “Even with our small pilot studies this past spring, we are seeing real improvement in student performance,” she said. “The most important secret to the LAP students’ success is simple. Students must be offered a safe place to have an honest conversation about why they are not succeeding academically and then, in turn, be offered a working model to follow that will lead them to a positive outcome.”
Stone-Hernandez feels that the way to address the problem of underachieving or failing students lies in the intervention and redirection that is so scarcely offered in many colleges and universities.
“Students that have failed in a college course or semester tend to suffer,” said Stone-Hernandez. “They have a wounded sense of their ability to learn. This failure begets failure. Their self-confidence erodes and, eventually, far too many will give up and withdraw from college. Our dream at University of Mount Olive is that the sparkle in a student’s eyes, their desire to succeed, their dreams for their future, and their thirst for knowledge are always nurtured and protected. At MOC, through programs like SIP and LAP, we strive to develop within each student the tools necessary for learning at a deeper and more meaningful level. The end result is an accomplished, self-actualized student who knows how to think and learn.”
Stone-Hernandez is passionate about the MOC programs. She regularly shares with students about her own personal academic struggles at the undergraduate level. “I totally get students who are struggling. I’ve been there, done that. One of the first things that I do when a student is referred to me is to take out my own college transcript. I tell the student ‘I will show you my grades and you will show me your grades.’ That allows for the student to have a sense of equity and it allows for the barriers to slowly fall down. Their defense mechanisms are neutralized and real communication begins. At the conclusion of our meeting, I then show them the transcripts from my graduate school work. They are able to see that redemption is possible: that one CAN really rise up and become successful academically…that they do not have to carry the burden of the failure albatross around their necks. With hard work and submission to reform, I show students that they can overcome obstacles and soar.”
University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville. For more information, visit www.moc.edu.