Duke Interview: Cheryl Beierschmitt and Reed Colver

An interview with Cheryl Beierschmitt and Reed Colver from Duke University.


Duke University's Academic Resource Center (ARC) exemplifies a collaborative and innovative approach to fostering student success. By cultivating strong relationships with faculty, empowering students through peer learning communities like SAGE, and proactively navigating the evolving AI landscape, the ARC has become a valuable resource for Duke Students.
Featured in this interview:
Cheryl Beierschmitt
Reed Colver


Reed Colver, Associate Director of the Academic Resource Center (ARC) at Duke University, and Cheryl Beierschmitt, Peer Education Manager, have been instrumental in developing a comprehensive suite of student support services at Duke. The ARC offers peer tutoring, learning consultations, and innovative programs like SAGE (Student Advocate for Greater Engagement) learning communities. In this post, we'll explore the strategies and philosophies that have contributed to the ARC's successes.

(5:40) Cultivating campus-wide collaboration

The ARC places a strong emphasis on building relationships across campus. Reed and Cheryl stress the importance of assuming positive intent, actively listening to stakeholders, and facilitating communication between different groups. To foster these connections, the ARC hosts an annual "SAGE Mixer," bringing together faculty and partners in a casual setting to share ideas and build rapport.

Faculty partnerships play a crucial role in promoting ARC services to students. When instructors highlight offerings like SAGE and peer tutoring in their classes, student participation increases significantly. The ARC reciprocates by sharing session feedback with faculty (while protecting student privacy), demonstrating the program's impact and value.

(15:14) Empowering students through peer learning communities

SAGE, a standout program within the ARC, combines course content support with strategic learning skills development and a strong sense of community. Groups of 8-10 students meet weekly with a trained peer facilitator to collaboratively tackle challenges and cultivate metacognitive skills that they can apply throughout their academic journey.

Several key factors contribute to SAGE's success:

  • Close collaboration with faculty, who offer insights on effective strategies and common areas of difficulty
  • Facilitators' access to all course materials, enabling informed session planning
  • A tiered leadership structure, with experienced "lead facilitators" mentoring newer peers
  • An emphasis on peer-to-peer interaction and community-building

For learning centers interested in implementing a similar model, Reed and Cheryl recommend starting with engaged faculty in high-need courses. By identifying areas where students struggle with the transition to college-level work and partnering with enthusiastic instructors, centers can pilot peer learning groups and demonstrate their impact.

(26:43) Navigating the evolving AI landscape

Like many in the field of higher education, the ARC is closely monitoring developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and considering its implications for student learning. They actively participate in university-wide conversations and seek guidance from Duke's Learning Innovation office.

While the ARC has not yet directly incorporated AI into its programs, they are exploring its potential to enhance services. For example, they are considering using AI-powered tools to develop discussion questions or take notes during sessions. However, they remain mindful of faculty concerns and prioritize helping students think critically about the technology.

Reed emphasizes the importance of a student-driven approach, stating, "Our students know more than we do. And so we are learning from them and then sharing our knowledge to help them frame it." The ARC strives to serve as a knowledgeable guide, vetting tools and offering recommendations to help students navigate the evolving AI landscape.

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