by Public Relations
All it takes is stepping through the door. Christopher Voltz, a senior preseminary major at Cedarville University, was once disorganized and not living up to his potential as a student. After learning about The Cove through students who were doing homework there, he decided to meet with Kim Ahlgrim, associate dean of academic enrichment and the director of The Cove.
“She researched my grades and all that stuff,” he said. Ahlgrim then began to push Voltz to work harder. “I should have been doing way better than I was!” he said. This was the motivation Voltz needed to start doing better academically. “I started doing so much better in classes, and she asked me to help her with a few things to use me as an example of someone who The Cove had really benefitted. After that, she asked me if I would be willing to be a peer mentor for some people, and I have been doing that ever since.”
The Cove provides academic resources and support early on for students like Voltz in hopes that their stories will end up the same. Ahlgrim said, “Bottom line, we really want to help students to facilitate learning, to engage them and to provide the resources to make that happen.” Students coming into The Cove for help could include a 4.0 senior who needs help with a class to graduate or a student with a disability. One of the largest parts of The Cove’s strategy to help students grow is student peer mentors like Voltz. “When someone comes to The Cove and says that they are struggling academically because they just aren't motivated, or they have some sort of learning disability, they assign me or another peer mentor to them to help them in that area,” Voltz said.
Voltz said that every person he mentors is different. “Some just need help getting organized at the beginning of the semester in order to put a calendar together and get all of their syllabi in line, and others I have to meet with each week and really push them to make sure that they aren't slacking off,” he said.
The Cove understands that students may feel pressure when they have to meet with an older, adult professional to get homework help, so in order to relieve that pressure, they use peer mentors. “In some cases, being a mentor just requires that you go to the library with a student for a couple of hours a week and just sit next to them doing homework so that they do the same,” Voltz said.
The Cove’s tutoring program has grown dramatically in the past few years, so much so that in fall 2010, the program had to be restructured to help all the students that were applying. After they consulted with Big 10 schools for suggestions, the program was better able to serve students. “We’re a little school with a Big 10 tutoring program,” Ahlgrim said.
The Cove provides a plethora of other assets for students. One such resource is an online program that can direct them to various available resources around campus. Magellan, The Cove’s online portal, helps students navigate Cedarville’s website to find what they need. It links to various resources around campus and allows students an environment to freely discover and confront some of their own areas of academic weakness.
One of the other staple programs The Cove offers is Foundations, a one-credit course open to any student. Those in The Cove decided to reform the class from what it once was. “We threw everything out the window and then rebuilt from the ground up,” Ahlgrim said.
The course now has renewed interest. “It orients you to the Cedarville learning community and helps you identify your personal strengths,” Ahlgrim said. It seeks to help students explore proven strategies for taking notes, thinking critically, managing time, taking tests and balancing priorities. Each class is kept intentionally small so that the professor can interact with each student individually.
Ahlgrim chooses each Foundations professor personally. Each professor teaches the course differently, bringing his or her unique perspective from higher education to help students succeed. Foundations and numerous other programs illustrate how helpful The Cove has been in the success of many students on campus.
Jordan Lewis, a freshman this year, entered Cedarville through the Foundations class. “Foundations gave me different strategies on how to take notes, study for tests and manage my time. The way that the class was set up allowed me to meet people who were going through exactly the same thing, and we were able to work through it together.” Lewis said she still uses many of the strategies she learned in the class. “It was so helpful with learning how to transition from high school to college,” she said.
The Cove has humble roots — eight years ago it started with just a few offices down a hall in the athletic center. “Before that time there was only a secretary doing a little bit of these things,” Ahlgrim said. “We had nothing. We didn’t have a mission; we didn’t have a vision; we didn’t have objectives. It was a blank canvas.”
Those involved with the founding of The Cove started to dream about what was possible for the program. “We talked to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of students that year,” she said. In its first year the program didn’t even have a name. After talking with students, they discovered that people wanted to come to a place that had an interesting name. “We wanted it to be engaging and welcoming, even from the moment you’re in the hallway.” It would be called The Cove.
After a year the program began to build. “It’s like ants at a picnic,” Ahlgrim said. “Students told their friends and then more people came.” From there the growth has been enormous: “Every year we’ve had to adjust or adapt based on the growth. We’ve doubled about every year in our services.”
Having grown so dramatically, each day is different, but every day is busy in The Cove. On one day Ahlgrim saw students come in to take tests, saw tutors come in to get hired for the next academic year and saw students come in to apply to be tutors. She talked to prospective families on the phone and found a place for a group of students to study. There’s no telling what one might find in The Cove on any given day. While the specifics might look different each day, the end goal remains the same: helping students achieve their academic goals.
Voltz said the best part about the Cove is the environment and spirit of those who work there. “They are just itching to help people,” he said. “They are so gracious with those who are in a tough spot and need to be extended some mercy in a situation. But on the flip side, they are so blunt with the people who are not giving their full effort academically to meet their capabilities. They just love people, and it shows through every single interaction that they have with the students who come through their doors.”
Lewis said that those who work in The Cove have a passion for helping others not just academically, but also personally. “I have been able to see that for those who work there, the Cove is not just a job, but also a ministry here on campus,” she said. “You can tell the moment that you walk into The Cove, each person there would do anything to make sure that you succeed.”
“The Cove has done amazing things in my life,” Voltz said. “If people would be willing to put their pride behind them and admit that they need a little help, they could also benefit from what The Cove has to offer. All it takes is stepping through the door.”
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University attracts 3,300 undergraduate, graduate and online students to more than 100 areas of study. Celebrating 125 years of education excellence, Cedarville is a Christ-centered learning community recognized nationally for rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. Visit the University online at www.cedarville.edu.