UGA Interview: Sarah Jeffery

An interview with Sarah Jeffery, senior coordinator of peer tutoring at UGA.

Abstract

Under the leadership of Sarah Jeffery, the University of Georgia (UGA) significantly expanded its peer tutoring program, tripling its tutors and driving a 191% increase in utilization since 2019. Strategies included conducting efficiency audits, expanding study pods, targeted marketing to students, strengthening faculty relationships, supporting high DFW courses, and making the tutor role more appealing. Learn about these strategies and more in our conversation with Sarah.
Featured in this interview:
Sarah Jeffery

Introduction

Sarah Jeffery, Senior Coordinator of Peer Education at the University of Georgia (UGA), has overseen a dramatic expansion of the institution's peer tutoring program. Since 2019, UGA has more than tripled its number of peer tutors and achieved a remarkable 191% increase in utilization. In this post, we'll explore the key strategies that have fueled this impressive growth.

Conducting an efficiency audit

One of the first steps UGA took was to critically evaluate their existing tutoring offerings. By analyzing metrics like cost per student served for services such as drop-in hours, they identified opportunities to optimize their approach. This led to strategic changes, including phasing out drop-in tutoring in favor of more efficient appointment-based and small group options.

Expanding study pods

UGA had a small existing study pod program, with groups of up to 6 students meeting weekly with a tutor. Recognizing the potential of this format, they dramatically scaled up study pod availability. From offering fewer than 10 study pods per semester, they now provide 150-300. As more students experienced the benefits of this collaborative learning model, study pods became a popular choice rivaling 1:1 appointments.

Strategic marketing to students

To drive awareness and engagement, UGA implemented a targeted email marketing strategy. They send personalized emails to students in classes with available tutoring at four key points each semester: the start of the term, before midterms, after the drop deadline, and before finals. By tailoring the messaging to each student's specific courses, they effectively connect students with relevant support opportunities.

Strengthening faculty relationships

Building strong partnerships with faculty has been crucial to the peer tutoring program's success. At the beginning of each semester, UGA proactively reaches out to faculty teaching courses supported by tutoring. They provide resources like syllabus blurbs, offer class visits from lead tutors, and facilitate direct connections between faculty and the tutors supporting their courses. These efforts foster faculty buy-in and encourage student participation.

Supporting high DFW courses

UGA has strategically allocated tutor staffing to support courses with high DFW (Drop, Fail, Withdraw) rates. By transparently sharing utilization data with department contacts and highlighting improvements in DFW rates for classes with strong tutoring usage, they have built a compelling case for the program's impact. This data-driven approach has been instrumental in justifying funding requests.

Making the tutor role more appealing

Recognizing the importance of recruiting and retaining talented tutors, UGA has taken steps to make the peer tutor role more attractive to students. They offer competitive pay, schedule flexibility, and actively seek tutor input on policy decisions. By creating a desirable employment opportunity, they have enhanced their ability to attract and retain a strong tutor workforce.

The impact of UGA's peer tutoring growth

Through these multifaceted initiatives and the support of institutional leadership, UGA's peer tutoring program has achieved remarkable growth and impact. While securing permanent funding increases remains an ongoing process, the program's positive effect on student success in challenging courses is clear. UGA's approach offers valuable insights for other learning centers seeking to expand their reach and demonstrate value to stakeholders.

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