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Volume 64, Issue 2

January 29, 2010

Excel Centers help make better students

The Project Excel Centers for Excellence annual report for Academic Year 2008-2009 offers statistical evidence that students who make use of the centers are more successful than those who don't.

Importantly, the report shows that Excel Center usage correlates with higher GPAs and increased student retention. This conclusion is something of a no-brainer, according to Barbara Gaddis, director of the Excel Centers, who explained that Excel Center success is the result of good direction, good staffing, and a dedication to improving student success across the university.

The Project Excel Program includes the Language Technology Center, the Mathematics Learning Center, the Oral Communication Center, the Science Learning Center, and the Writing Center. Funded originally by a Title III Grant and now supported by the university, the centers have been a vital part of student support at UCCS since 1990. The annual report offers background, a vision statement, goals, in addition to statistics that quantify the success achieved by both the centers and the students who use them.

Gaddis pointed out that each of the centers "... offers students a unique program of academic support that is based on the principles of collaborative learning, individualized assistance, and the intelligent use of technology. Peer tutoring is the center of the Excel educational practices. Each center is staffed with a full-time director, a staff or faculty member who guides peer undergraduate and graduate assistants to provide students with the best in peer collaborations and learning, and who always strives to find new ways to enhance student learning and improve student success."

In a brief interview, Gaddis discussed the value of peer tutors working in the Excel Centers, saying:

"The peer tutors have been there. They have taken the same courses, and they understand where the students need help."

The shared experience, Gaddis said, gives the tutors opportunity to offer strategies and tips about what worked for them, while they guide students to improve critical skills. There are both undergraduate and graduate students working in the centers and this mix provides a wide range of experience on which students can draw.

Gaddis emphasized that students come to the Excel centers for a variety of reasons. Many come to make use of the tutors who provide students with feedback on essays or end of the-semester talks, chemistry or math problems that seems confusing, or German or Spanish verbs that need conjugating. Many take advantage of supplemental and extra instruction sessions offered to help students improve critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Many come to use the centers’ resources, or just to meet friends and study in an environment that promotes learning and is filled with students sharing common interests.

The centers are designed to complement classroom activities in various disciplines, as well as to offer individualized assistance . Excel Center programs include:

  • Drop-in and online tutoring
  • Writing consultation sessions
  • Online writing lab
  • Videotaping and feedback on presentations
  • Supplemental instruction and extra instruction (problem-solving) sessions
  • Academic preparation workshops
  • Interactive computer programs
  • In-class workshops and presentations
  • Media, print resources, and computer resources
  • Foreign language conversation tables

During 2008–2009, the report states, 70,171 student visits were made to the Excel Centers during the fall, spring, and summer semesters and 1694 students used the Online Writing Lab, for a total of 71,865 uses. This total does not include workshops and other in-class activities. All centers saw increased usage. The centers serve all students, from freshmen to graduate students, although approximately half of the students using the centers are freshmen and sophomores. The Writing Center also sees a large number of seniors and graduate students.

Communique is the online newsletter for UCCS faculty and staff. It is published weekly during the fall and spring semesters, monthly during the summer semester. Communique is sent to faculty and staff e-mail lists and, by request, to other e-mail addresses. Previous issues are available in the Communique Archives at, and the current issue is always at Suggestions and comments are welcome. Send ideas to or call Tom Hutton, 255-3439.

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