Prabhjot Kaur came to Fresno State with her mind set on studying biochemistry and following a straight path to become a doctor. But during her second semester, the required introduction to biology class stumped her — and she failed.

She was placed on academic probation the following semester and knew she had to work hard to get her GPA up. She enrolled in the same class a year later and found herself doing so poorly again that she considered dropping out of school.

But she met a Supplemental Instruction leader in her biology class. These leaders are students who help facilitate group conversations about the class content. She joined the group discussions so she could learn alongside her peers and do better. It helped, but her grades continued to be low. The Supplemental Instruction leader encouraged her to reach out to an academic coach through Academic Success Coaching, the program formerly called SupportNet. She did and learned that she has severe testing anxiety. 

“The support I gained from Supplemental Instruction and talking to my academic coach was tremendous,” Kaur said. “It’s a space where students have to collaborate with peers, to form connections and gain that sense of belonging within the program. You’re not only learning the content of the class, but you’re learning beyond that. You’re learning to collaborate with peers and the SI leader, you’re building critical thinking skills, building understanding of different areas, strategies and methods you can use to learn.”

Kaur graduated with a degree in biochemistry in spring 2020. She is now a graduate student studying student affairs and college counseling so she can give students the same support she received as an undergraduate. She expects to graduate next year.

Supplemental Instruction, Tutoring and Academic Success Coaching are three programs under the Fresno State Learning Center — a space that encourages students to grow intellectually as critical thinkers using effective strategies to improve content understanding and course grades. 

A little more than 4,000 students at Fresno State used the services at the Learning Center during the 2020-21 academic year. More than 20,000 students have used the services over the last five years, leading to nearly 200,000 visits. The Learning Center employs about 130 students as tutors, Supplemental Instruction leaders and academic coaches and has a staff of 11. 

Here’s a look at the three programs under the Learning Center:

  • Supplemental Instruction, commonly known as SI, encourages students to work with peers from class and their Supplemental Instruction leader to develop study strategies, exchange ideas, gain a better understanding of course material and improve a student’s overall grade. Students who attend Supplemental Instruction at least once a week can earn half to a full letter grade higher when compared to those who do not. 
  • Tutoring provides drop-in opportunities and appointments to support students in various subjects with attention and flexibility helping students to set their own agenda and work at their own pace. 
  • Academic Success Coaching, provides academic coaching and workshops to support students. In a one-on-one setting, topics such as motivation, study skills, test taking strategies, time management and much more are explored.

The Learning Center is a support system thousands of Fresno State Bulldogs lean on each and every academic semester,” said Ruby Sangha-Rico, Learning Center director. “This department provides space for vulnerability, intellectual growth, academic progress, friendship and so much more. Students leave feeling seen, heard and valued, but also challenged to grow, excel and develop as scholars. I am incredibly proud of our University’s Learning Center and all that it gives to our campus community.”

Like Kaur, junior Elena Bojorquez said she couldn’t have gotten through her classes without the help of the Learning Center. The move from Fresno City College to Fresno State was a difficult transition, the biology major said. 

She met an academic coach and was introduced to the services at the Learning Center where she did drop-in tutoring sessions, made tutoring appointments and attended Supplemental Instruction sessions for various courses.

“Sometimes when we feel alone, when we are at the spot where we start having self-doubts about ourselves, help is there,” said Bojorquez, who expects to graduate in 2023. “I wouldn’t be here without SI sessions and SI leaders. You’re not alone. You can succeed with the help of others. We’re here to support each other.”