Category Archives: From the Desk of the Director

Special posts and messages from our esteemed director, Dr. Komara.

Welcome to a New Academic Year!

I hope you had a full and relaxing summer. The Academic Center for Excellence team had a busy but quiet summer, quiet only because we did not host summer programming.  Instead, we focused on our ACE space, team, professional development, new students and families visiting for Lake Days, among other energizing tasks including the common reads for AY2018-19.

We have some changes in the ACE. Our new Math Center Coordinator, Dr. Daniel Cheshire, joined the ACE team in July and has been developing workshops and interactive mathematics learning tools, including a Discovery Lab. What is a Discovery Lab?  You’ll need to stop by the Academic Center for Excellence to find out more.  We also have rearranged our space.  Sabrina now has a desk and is eager to welcome visitors to the ACE.

Our Mary Francine Danis Writing Center schedule will be available starting August 20, 2018. The Tutoring Center and Math Center schedules will open during the second week of class.  We have that week delay in schedule availability because, just like you, our peer tutors are sorting out their class schedules.

I’m excited for the start of our new academic year and look forward to seeing you at the ACE. Please be certain to mark your calendars for our Open House on Wednesday, August 29, from 12-2pm, and to drop in.

Wings up!!

Dr. Komara



Welcome to campus OLLU Students!

We hope your summer break has replenished your energy!  The Academic Center for Excellence has had a busy summer and anticipates an exciting academic year.

The Mary Francine Danis Writing Center will post a schedule for the first week, but the complete Fall 2016 schedule will begin on Tuesday after Labor Day (September 6, 2016).  Sabrina, Sister Barbara, and Kristi will continue to work with students, and joining the MFD Writing Center consultant team is Abby, who also works as a freelance writer for the SA Current.  You’ll want to check out her posts on our blog this year, along with Sabrina’s and Kristi’s regular posts.  Another consultant will round out our team very soon in September.  Stop by to see us, but remember also that you can make your appointments at any time by logging on to

The Peer Tutoring Center will post its schedule on Tuesday after Labor Day (September 6, 2016).  You can login to your OLLU WC Online account (, use the dropdown box to specify Peer Tutoring & Math Center, and narrow the schedule according to your class by using the “Limit to” dropdown box.  Many of your favorite math, science, history, and Spanish tutors will return to the ACE this Fall.  Stop by to say hello.

Our ACE team has also been busy with our math Supplemental Instruction program.  SI leaders will attend lectures and labs for all first-year MATH INT courses starting on Friday of this week.  They will facilitate 2-3 hours of group study.  Through the SI program, ACE also will offer a walk-up MATH 1304 tutor.  Stay tuned for the hours; they will be announced in your math class and posted through ACE.

Please check your student planners and the OLLU calendar for our ACE and Student Success Workshops.    Join us for the Library Lawn Extravaganza on Thursday (September 1), our open house on September 15th (11:00-1:30), and our monthly nacho hour—the first one taking place next week on September 8th from 3:33-4:44 pm.  More importantly, the ACE staff hopes that you will spend time reading, writing, and studying with us.

The intellectual journey ahead of us this semester will provide opportunities and challenges, so come put your best foot forward at the Academic Center for Excellence!


Dr. Komara and the ACE Team

Study Challenge

Now that Fall Break is over, I encourage you to review your study schedule and consider ways to maximize your study time.  Students often overlook the small chunks of time that open up during the day for studying.  Those 30-40 minute slices of time can be power blocks for reviewing notes, brainstorming for a paper, pre-reading a chapter, or practicing a few math problems.  Research indicates that students who study in shorter but regular chunks retain more information than those who study over longer chunks of time prior to a test.  If you use your time after class to review notes, you will find that your notes make more sense.  And, after reflecting on the class as a whole, you may even be able to annotate or elaborate on portions of your notes.  This strategy can also help you to anticipate the next lesson or to formulate questions that you may have.

If you find that you work better when you collaborate or have a study buddy, you should make an appointment with a tutor at ACE.  The tutor can support your studying and suggest strategies for staying focused in a study session.  Bear in mind that recognizing your habits and determining whether or not those habits help with information retention will support you not only in one class, but in the long-term.  Learning how you learn provides a strategy you can use throughout life!

If you are currently in a first-year Math class, you should take advantage of our Supplemental Instruction Program.  SI for MATH1304INT meets every day Monday through Thursday from 5-6pm and on Monday and Wednesday 12:30-1:30pm.  SI for MATH1301INT meets Tuesday and Thursday 6:30-7:30pm.  Check with your SI leaders during Math classes to verify time and location.  Research also shows that regular attendance at SI can improve your grade up to one full letter grade.  Why not try it?

Studying challenges us and requires discipline, but it rewards us with a wealth of knowledge.  We are only at the midpoint of the term, so now is a good time to move ahead.  Challenge yourself to study and to use the resources available at OLLU to support your success.

Welcome Back!

The Academic Center for Excellence welcomes you back!  We had a busy and fun summer at ACE.  Our Math Coordinator, Tony Perez, created the Discovery:  Math MaTTers program for incoming freshmen; our Writing Consultants held almost 300 consultations; we developed our new Math Supplemental Instruction program; our ACE staff developed some workshops for the upcoming year; and we have been working with returning peer tutors and hiring new tutors for the Peer Tutoring Center.

Tony designed Math MaTTers as a way for incoming “students to uncover and flex their ‘math muscles’ in preparation for upcoming math course work.”  Math MaTTers provided a series of discovery-activities that included mathematical applications in the sciences, in business, and in everyday situations. They were fun and interesting and served as a great platform to present math operations and concepts.  Tony’s innovative Math MaTTers program also included writing, discussing spiritual issues at the Elliot House with Mission & Ministry, and participating in service work.   And, participants developed a familiarity with OLLU’s ACE, allowing them to realize that it is a safe, comfortable place to ask questions, explore ideas, and learn.  After hanging out in ACE for two weeks, these incoming OLLU students also realized that we’re a pretty happening place.  Where else can you go on campus to fly aircraft, measure hang-time, and launch bottle rockets?

Writing Consultants Jason, Sabrina, Kristi, and Sister Barbara worked with many undergraduate and graduate students over the summer months.  We noticed that many of you are opting for chatroom and phone consultations.  We love seeing you in person, but are grateful that technologies offer us many ways to interact with you and your writing.  As always, consultants appreciate your ideas, enjoy watching your writing process evolve and develop, and feel happy to have the opportunity to work with all of you.   In July, with sad hearts, we wished Writing Consultant Scott bon voyage, as he moved to Kansas with his family.  Amy will join our team of professional consultants in September.  She has an MA in English from OLLU and worked in the writing center under the direction of Dr. Danis.  We feel grateful that she returns to us.

Our ACE team has also been busy developing our new math Supplemental Instruction program.  SI creates course-specific study groups that are facilitated by peer leaders.  With the approval of math faculty, Tony interviewed and selected 8 SI peer leaders.  We met with faculty to implement the details of the program, and then we developed an ongoing SI training program.  We’re excited about our excellent SI leaders and the opportunities for success that the program opens up for our first year math courses.

Please check your student planners and the OLLU calendar for our ACE and Student Success Workshops.  We planned workshops, such as test-taking strategies, writing tips, and math tactics, with you in mind.  Join us for open house on September 21 and our monthly nacho hour—the first one taking place on 9/9 at 3:33 pm.  More importantly, the ACE staff hopes that you will spend time reading, writing, and studying with us.

I hope that you have tightened your schedules, added those necessary courses, dropped those that didn’t work for you, set your SI meeting times, reviewed the ACE tutoring schedule for appointments, put ACE activities into your planner, added our blog link to your favorites list, and resolved to enjoy your course work!

Plagiarism Prevention

Stephen Ambrose loved history; his prolific writing attests to a mind alive with great historical narratives, such as Band of Brothers. Early in his career, he made a mistake in acknowledging source materials:  he had cited a work in his bibliography, but had failed to quote key phrases and attribute them to their authors (  His mistake occurred prior to the age of the internet and led to an accusation of plagiarism later in his academic career.  Mr. Ambrose made a mistake in accurately quoting materials, a common mistake for many college students.   If Mr. Ambrose could make such a novice mistake, why is it so surprising that student-writers make the same mistake?

Such mistakes are not so surprising, but student-writers’ lack of knowledge about plagiarism and ways of preventing it are surprising and troubling.  In fact, plagiarism is one part of the larger concern about academic dishonesty, which includes making up data, hiding resources, reusing an old assignment, giving your essay to someone else to use, or even collaborating on an assignment when it isn’t allowed.

Student-writers often take sloppy notes, and in the age of internet, sloppy note-taking in the form of cutting-and-pasting information has become a very common habit.  Even though the internet makes citing sources and tracking information easier, students who quilt together information by grabbing it off of the internet usually fail to cite or to summarize or paraphrase.  Sloppy note-taking and ignorance about citation protocols make many students vulnerable to committing plagiarism.  Ignorance and laziness do not excuse plagiarism, but knowledge and time management can prevent it.

Plagiarism happens when you represent someone else’s work as your own and/or do not properly cite your source material.  In general, we usually think of plagiarism as it relates to research and writing, but it also includes all types of information and ideas, such as images, graphs, diagrams, statistics, or videos.  Any of that information that is easily copied from the internet or elsewhere must be cited.  The best strategy for preventing plagiarism is to take notes in your own words and to document notes as you take them.  Do not wait until you have finished your whole project to insert your documentation!  If you take careful notes along the way, then drafting your paper will become easier.

Learning how to summarize, paraphrase, and quote correctly will help you to avoid sloppiness in note-taking.  Here are a few basic tips for taking notes from a written source:

  • Understand the context of the material. In other words, read the whole article, not just the abstract or the first few pages.
  • Use your own words to write about the author’s ideas. Avoid highlighting and underlining as your main strategy, since neither will reinforce your understanding of the ideas.
  • Avoid cutting and pasting large portions of an article into your notes or your paper.
  • Look up difficult words and think about the ways these words are used in your discipline.
  • Set aside the text, think about it, and then write your notes (summarize or paraphrase). If you can’t find your own words to explain the ideas, then you may still be struggling to understand.

For detailed strategies on how to use summary, paraphrase, and quotation in a paper, please see “Using Sources” under Writing Tips.

Mastering the art of note-taking solves one part of the paper writing task, but the other part includes time management.  Procrastination can lead to hasty research, sloppy notes, and inadvertent plagiarism.  Familiarize yourself with the course syllabus early in the term and mark due dates on your calendar.  Also, include goals in your calendar prior to the due date, such as gather research articles, read and take notes, write draft, visit the MFD Writing Center, and revise.  If you cultivate an interest in your studies and research projects, focused work and time management will not be onerous.

The best ways to prevent plagiarism include to acknowledge your source material with citations, avoid cutting and pasting large pieces of information from the internet, take notes in your own words, manage your time efficiently, and cultivate an interest in your studies.  Enjoy the opportunity to learn and to add your voice to the community of scholars you have joined at the university.