Panther Academic Support Services History
By Johanna Dvorak, Ph.D.
Panther Academic Support Services (PASS) began as the tutoring component in the Department of Learning Skills. The Learning Skills Department was established at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the mid-1970s to serve all undergraduate students on campus.
By the early 1980s, we offered tutoring in 30 freshman and sophomore courses, employed 35 tutors, and were open to everyone on a first-come, first-served basis. We offered tutoring for large lecture courses in science, business, logic, math, and English at the 100 and 200 levels. Group sizes were limited to three; students filled out applications; and tutors called to set up regular meeting times with required attendance once a week. Tutoring took place in various locations in Mellencamp, Garland Hall, then Mitchell Hall Rooms B94, B14 and B9.
Our Academic Resource Center was located first in Mellencamp, then in Mitchell Hall 135, Mitchell B1, then Bolton 180. This center has held a collection of resource materials and media to support courses and provide college study strategies. Computer resources were added in the 1980s, and website resources are a dominant feature today.
In 1985 the Department of Learning Skills incorporated tutoring services previously offered by the Department of Educational Opportunity, called the Experimental Program in Higher Education, in the 1960s. The tutoring programs split into the Intensive Tutoring Program for minority/disadvantaged students and the Campus-Wide Tutoring Service, all under the same administrative unit. The Intensive program served ten advising programs for minority/disadvantaged students by offering weekly group or individual sessions in any course. The campus-wide model continued to offer the same number of courses, focusing on the 100 and 200 levels. Composition offered both walk-in assistance for papers in any course and weekly one-on-one tutoring for any English course.
Through the following ten years, the program continued to grow, employing 80 tutors and a small support staff. It also began serving students of color in Letters and Science and student athletes for the Athletic Department. However, when UWM took steps in 1994-95 to trim its budget, enrollment was downsized; tutoring was limited to courses through the 300 level only. After UWM became a Division I school, the Athletic Department developed its own tutoring program in 1997-98. Our tutoring staff of 60 served our undergraduate population.
In May 1995, departments were reorganized, and the tutoring component became the Tutoring and Academic Resource Center (TARC) in the Division of Student Academic Development (DSAD) as part of Academic Affairs. Because of increasing enrollments, our number of tutors rose again to 100, the number of tutors we employ today, to serve a larger undergraduate population.
Another trend has been the growing number of students with disabilities admitted to UWM. Since tutoring is mandated by law for some students with learning disabilities, these students received tutoring as part of their accommodation need throughout their undergraduate education.
TARC began to expand its academic support services, adding 4 Supplemental Instruction courses in Fall 1995. In an effort to reach more students, TARC began online tutoring via email in 1996. Space concerns shifted some of TARCs facilities. Between 1998 and 2000, TARC's Reading and Writing Center was renamed the Language and Writing Center because UWM increased its foreign language requirements, and TARC was granted funds to tutor more foreign languages.
In 1998, TARC added space in Bolton Hall for Math/Science Tutoring center. The space was centrally located and also allowed TARC to tutor on the weekends and in the evenings. Also in 1998, TARC brought math and English tutoring to the Sandburg Residence Halls two nights a week. Also, its Supplemental Instruction program began to use classrooms across campus as it expanded the number of SI courses.
From 2003 to 2009 TARC became part of the College of Letters and Sciences, offering tutoring to all undergraduate students. Beyond most 100 and 200 level L&S courses, we also offered tutoring in some fine arts, business, and nursing courses. We moved our main center to Bolton 180 in Fall 2004 from Mitchell B1, B94, and Bolton 195.
We continued to tutor in other facilities in Cunningham Hall, Sandburg Halls, and, beginning in 2008, Riverview Residence Halls. Our online tutoring was done via the Desire2Learn interface. Supplemental Instruction was greatly expanded beginning in Fall 2005, to over 50 courses per semester in 2008-09. To accommodate our SI program, we used a large area in the lower level of the Golda Meir Library (WB42).
PASS developed several collaborations across campus. We partner with the College of Nursing to provide Supplemental Instruction for pre-nursing courses. In 2006, we began a collaboration with the Peck School of the Arts Music Department to provide tutoring both in class and outside of class primarily for music theory courses.
PASS also has been a collaborator on external grants. In 2004-06, PASS received a FIPSE grant from the University of Arizona to pilot the Teaching Teams program, designed to train class leaders, or preceptors, to assist learning in large lecture classes across campus. In 2007-08, PASS received a University of Wisconsin System Office of Professional and Instructional Development (OPID) grant to study the effects of an enhanced Supplemental Instruction service in an Anatomy and Physiology course. In 2008-09, it developed online academic support for online courses through a UWM Sloane Foundation grant.
In Fall 2009, TARC moved to Academic Affairs and was renamed Panther Academic Support Services (PASS). Tutoring for math, science, and business courses was moved to the First Floor, East Wing of the Golda Meir Library. The Academic Resource Center became the PASS Technology Center in the Golda Meir Library, room E154. Social sciences, humanities, and foreign language is tutored in the Student Success Center in Bolton 120.
The PASS Online Tutoring program is our most recent innovation. We currently use the campus webinar service, BlackBoard Collaborate, to provide online tutoring sessions to students in all our 100 Supplemental Instruction and tutoring courses through our PASS Desire to Learn (D2L) subject sites. Our face-to-face tutors and SI leaders go through a 4-hour training program to learn the web-conferencing technology and active online tutoring sessions. These tutors and SI leaders also hold weekly online sessions often during evening or weekend hours. Many also conduct 1-2 hour exam reviews for their courses. Blended (hybrid) sessions are also held in our center using our interactive whiteboards. Students can join these synchronous sessions either in-person or online, with as many as 100 participants for exam review sessions Students can also access the archives for further review.
These efforts are a vital part of the undergraduate community of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They support our mission to academic support through peer tutoring, Supplemental Instruction and academic resources. Our goal is to enhance the classroom learning experience for most 100 and 200 level courses in order to help students succeed academically at UWM.