Gatepost Interview: Ally Chisholm – Academic success coordinator – tutoring and workshops

Kathleen Moore / THE GATEPOST

What is your educational and professional background?

I graduated from Framingham State in 2011, and I majored in sociology, and minored in psychology while I was here. After I graduated, I actually worked part-time in CASA and part-time in admissions before I went to Merrimack College. I graduated from there in 2013 with an M.Ed. in higher ed. I started this role in August of 2013, and I’ve been here since.

Why did you come to Framingham State?

I really enjoyed my undergraduate experience, and when I was doing my graduate work and thinking about where I wanted to ultimately work, I always was drawn back to either state schools or community colleges because I really believe in public higher education. I think that’s one of the main things that drew me back here. Also, just reflecting back, I had such a good experience with all of my faculty members and staff members and other students while I was here, so I was happy to come back.

What is your role here at FSU?

I am one of the academic success coordinators here in CASA. I’m responsible for the professional and student tutoring that we have here in CASA, as well as workshops. I do outreach to various groups and work with faculty members. I serve as a resource for both students and faculty members to try to get students connected to outside resources on Framingham State’s campus that might help them be successful in their academic endeavors.

What projects are you currently working on?

This past summer, we launched a new online tutoring portal, which is called ThinkingStorm, that students can access through their Blackboard account. Since it’s so new to us, we are trying to ensure the students are utilizing it, trying to make sure that it is the best service possible, and just trying to take an inventory of that and making sure it is going smoothly. Something new we started last semester that we’re trying to implement again this semester is our Academic Strategy Peer Tutor (ASPT) Minute Clinics. The ASPTs help with general academic skills – like time management, note-taking, test-taking, and things like that. If students are having any trouble with any of those, or if they want to hone those skills a little bit more, they can sign up with an ASPT in CASA. But the Minute Clinics are an offshoot of that – it is more walk-in and drop-in, at certain times. Students can just drop in, and if they have three exams coming up next week, and they just aren’t sure how to break down when to study, how to study, and all of that, they can check in with our peer tutor over there. 

Do you think technology advances or impedes learning, or a little bit of both?

I think a little bit of both! Speaking from our own personal experience, I can very easily get distracted by my phone. It might take me away from what I’m doing. But, I do think technology is helpful. It can make things more accessible for students. If a professor has uploaded a lecture, or whatever it may be, that repetitiveness that technology is able to provide, I think, is helpful. Some apps can be helpful to students, like a time-management app. There are a ton of free apps out there that can help students more easily stay on track by helping them “chunk” their study time. Blackboard is very, very helpful to students, and I think it offers a lot of different technological advances that students can utilize within that. But it can be distracting, too.

What career accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the work that our tutors do every day. It’s not any work that I am directly doing, but we’re constantly trying to be in touch with faculty and other staff, and hiring students – and professionals – who want to help students. I think we take a lot of pride in being one of the largest employers of students on campus, whether that be as notetakers, Supplemental Instruction leaders, tutors, front-desk workers, or whatever it may be. I think that we’re proud of our staff that we have on campus, and they do their best to create a welcoming environment because we know asking for help can be really challenging for a lot of students. 

What are some of your hobbies?

I like to cook for myself and for people. I like to host a lot of people over at my house. I have two little nephews that are the cutest kids ever. They’re pretty local, so I feel lucky that I can spend some time with them and hang out with them. I like to do yoga, and watch a lot of TV.

What advice do you have for FSU students?

Communicate as much as possible. That means communicating to your current faculty, keeping in touch with previous faculty members, and communicating with staff and other students. It’s really important to keep those lines of communication open. Try to get out of your comfort zone as much as possible. I think we’re really lucky to have a lot of great opportunities here, and I think sometimes, college students can be a little young to realize what great opportunities are provided to them – mostly free of charge. Take advantage of that! 

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