Helping students make the most of their summer

Thursday, July 7, 2022
Learning Coach Shawnda Garcia works with a student to help prepare them for the upcoming semester.

This may seem like the time to kick back and relax, with the heat and all, but the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) isn’t taking the summer off, and neither should students, advisors say.

“Now is when you can do things that will help you start strong in the fall,” said Gabrielle Sykes-Casavant, director of undergraduate strategic initiatives for Career and Academic Services in CALS.

Sykes-Casavant and Shawnda Garcia, the CALS learning coach, offered tips that can help students start off on the right foot when they begin classes in late August. Among their advice is learning about the support available to students.

In addition to academic advisors, CALS students have exclusive access to:

“In CALS, we’ve always been student-centered,” Sykes-Casavant said. “Over the past couple of years, we’ve taken that to the next level by building wrap-around supports for student success.”

Here are tips for new students:

  • Stay in touch with your CALS student orientation leader (SOL). They will be hosting workshops, virtual meetups, and drop-in hours during the summer. Your SOL can share strategies and resources as you prep for your first semester as a Wildcat.
  • Take the Math Placement Test – and take it seriously. The results of this test can affect the courses you’re eligible to enroll in your first semester and whether you’ll be able to graduate on time in four years. If you’ve already taken the test and placed into Math 100, you can retake it; your highest placement score determines course eligibility. Your academic advisor can help with how to prepare for retesting – such as the free Wildcat LEAP program  – and other math concerns.
  • Review the CALS Fall 2022 New Student info on D2L (Desire2Learn). The CALS New Student page is like an orientation reference and resource with all the links, tips, and info you need to know. Most UArizona courses have a D2L module; getting familiar with D2L now will ensure you’re able to better navigate the system once classes begin.
  • Connect with a CALS peer mentor and/or take a “success course.” CALS Connections pairs incoming students with an upperclassman for your entire first year. CALS ASEMS is a research-focused program in which eligible science, engineering and math scholars get specialized peer and faculty mentoring. And, finally, CALS 195C is a one-unit success course this fall that also gives students an additional mentor, called a CALS PAL.

Guidance for returning students

Even students who have a year or more of college under their belt can take steps this summer to ensure their continued academic success. Garcia, the CALS learning coach, said students can approach the return to campus with excitement and an eagerness to take on higher-level courses.

“They’ve gotten a lot of the general ed classes out of the way, and now they get to pursue things they’re passionate about, the courses that have to do directly with their major,” she said.

Garcia said the key for learners is to develop critical thinking skills, not to just memorize and regurgitate information. One way to do that is to really engage with instructors and the material, to attend office hours, and to use resources like the CALS Learning Lab.

Here are things she said students can do right now:

  • Download OneNote to their laptop or iPad so they can familiarize themselves with the app’s resources. Students can access this free learning engagement tool, which is part of Microsoft Suite, using their UArizona NetID.
  • Review the syllabus of each course ahead of time. This way you won’t feel so overwhelmed on the first day of class.
  • Plan to meet with Garcia or an advisor if you have questions or concerns about the mode of instruction a professor will use and want to review it ahead of time.

Garcia acknowledged that the pandemic has disrupted the “normal” education process and that some learners will be returning to campus for the first time in a couple of years. Trepidation is normal, but so is excitement, she said.

“We get to be back on campus and get to be involved in university activities after, let’s face it, being kind of sheltered,” she said. “Now, we get to actually engage with people.”