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Jennifer Deger

Rhetoric and Writing
Graduation Year:
May 2017
"Whether it's a simple mnemonic or a tip about how to succeed in one professor's class, I find it very rewarding when I can give a student some advice that I know will serve their academic pursuits for a long time after the session has ended."

What has been the most rewarding part about working at the Sanger Center?
The most rewarding part about tutoring at the Sanger Center is helping students with their school work in a way that will benefit them in the long run. Many students come in because they need help with completing a particular homework assignment or are reviewing for an upcoming exam. While that’s totally okay, I try to also give them tools that will further their academic success in the long run while we focus on that one specific thing they need help with. Whether it’s a simple mnemonic or a tip about how to succeed in one professor’s class, I find it very rewarding when I can give a student some advice that I know will serve their academic pursuits for a long time after the session has ended.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your job?
The most surprising aspect of my job has been the students who come in who don’t really need a tutor at all! During a lot of sessions I feel like I’m just watching someone do their homework while they explain it out loud, occasionally correcting minor mistakes and offering praise. It’s been surprising to me how many students are like this. My theory is that the extra help and motivation from a tutor is a great benefit for some students trying to complete assignments or prepare for exams. It’s nice to know that if you get stuck, there will be someone to help you. It’s also a good way to make sure you’re focused on school work for at least a whole hour!

Tell us about a time you worked with a student (or group of students) and were particularly proud of the outcome. What happened? Why was it special?
After some tutoring sessions when I don’t have another appointment and the student doesn’t have a place to be soon, we will just stay and talk for a little bit. Even though there’s not much of an age difference between us, as an upperclassman I feel adequately prepared to offer advice to freshmen who feel a little bit lost and overwhelmed by college. This has only happened a couple of times, but I’m proud of the outcomes because it showed me that the student trusted me enough to ask about things outside of the school work they came to get help with.

What do you think is the biggest myth about learning/studying in college?
I always heard the myth that your grade is based exclusively on exams in college. When I first got to UT, I was expecting all of my classes to have maybe a couple of midterms and a final, and the average of those grades would be my grade in the course. I knew that such a system would create a lot more stress surrounding exams because of how much would ride on my performance, but I was happy to say goodbye to busywork. However, my experience has been that most college classes require a lot of busywork! Exams are still important, yes, but there are also a lot of smaller things you have to do to make good grades. There are quest assignments, canvas quizzes, papers to write, etc., throughout the whole semester. While all of that stuff becomes very time consuming, it’s nice to know that not everything depends on how well I perform on only a few tests throughout the semester.

Tell us about an academic challenge you encountered when you got to UT. How did you handle it? What advice would you give to someone in that same situation?
Since I’m doing a BSA in Neuroscience, I’m required to get a minor or certificate to graduate (as opposed to a BS, which does not require this). As a freshman, I was fascinated by the field of computer science (CS) so I chose to pursue an Elements of Computing certificate. I took a couple of introduction classes in CS and learned a bit of coding, but then I took a year off to complete all of my pre-medical coursework (like biochemistry, organic chemistry, and genetics) in preparation for the MCAT exam. It was very difficult for me to return to coding after taking a whole year off. At the very beginning of the fall of my senior year, I felt so overwhelmed by my CS classes because I didn’t remember anything from my previous classes! I wanted to just stick it out, but after giving it a lot of thought, I decided that it wasn’t worth it because coding skills are not something I’m going to use or need as a doctor. CS is something I’m no longer passionate about, and it was going to be immensely time consuming if I stuck with it. So, I switched to a minor in rhetoric and writing, which is something I’ve always enjoyed. What I learned from this experience is to trust my gut instinct and to not do things I know are going to drive me insane just to say that I did them or have them on my resume.