Student Employee Profile: Haley Kenner
As if studying, homework and extracurricular activities aren't enough, some students add a campus job to their balancing act.
Many academic departments, offices and services around campus benefit from the work of student employees and in return provide hands-on experience outside the classroom setting.
In this occasional Lo Que Pasa series, we profile student employees to find out how working for the University contributes to their college experience.
This week, meet Haley Kenner, a senior majoring in neuroscience and cognitive science with a minor in biochemistry who will be graduating in May. Kenner, from Scottsdale, Arizona, has been a math tutor for three years at THINK TANK, part of the Student Success and Retention Innovation division which provides centralized academic support services for University of Arizona students. THINK TANK offers both free drop-in tutoring and fee-based private tutoring in math, science, writing, languages and business as well as test prep courses.
Kenner is also involved in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Ambassadors, the Associated Studens of the University of Arizona Student Health Advocacy Committee, the Health and Recreational Fee Advisory Board, the Wildcat Wishes Foundation and the Neuroscience & Cognitive Science Association of Students.
What made you want to work at THINK TANK?
I started tutoring in high school - both friends and students in an algebra class I was a TA (teaching assistant) for. It was so fun getting to work with different people and see how they learned differently from one another, and how I could adjust my tutoring style to address each person's individual needs. When I came to the University, I wanted to continue helping others, and THINK TANK was the best place for me to do so. In addition, the student population at the University is much more diverse than my high school's, which became another reason I was excited to tutor students here.
What subjects/classes do you tutor? Which is your favorite and why?
I tutor math up to calculus II and statistics. I have taken tons of science classes for my major and could tutor those too, but I love tutoring math because I feel it is the most frustrating subject for most students, and helping them overcome those frustrations is incredibly rewarding. Unlike science classes like chemistry and biology, every student at the UA has to reach a certain level of math proficiency before they can graduate, no matter what their major is.
How does your work impact people at the University?
I view my position as a "peer tutor" as one that can help students make changes that will positively impact their education outside of the class they came in for help with. Each time I sit down with a student, I challenge them to try new things, to push themselves, and most importantly, I challenge them to believe in their own abilities. My hope is that each time I meet a student, I help them understand a little more about themselves, so that maybe if they realize their note-taking habits, study routines, time management or anything else isn't working for them, I am right there to help find a solution, which will in turn improve their performance in every class going forward.
How have you benefited from your job?
I would say that the most important thing I have gained from this job is an understanding of how to work with people, and specifically how to work with different kinds of people, and be just as helpful to each one. One day I hope to become a physician, and I can attribute so much of my interpersonal abilities to this job, because I have had to find solutions on my own to many unexpected situations over the years. One thing I have learned much about through this job is to be completely nonjudgmental and kind to everyone that walks through the door - or comes into my Zoom room. Each person shows up for different reasons, with different motivations, having different available resources at home, with different life circumstances, all of which affect their ability to succeed in a math course.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your job? What challenges have you experienced and overcome in your job because of the pandemic?
Instead of a student walking into a big room and sitting at a table with others while they wait to be helped by the handful of tutors there, I now have my own individual Zoom room and let students in one at a time from the waiting room to help them. Tutoring is slightly more difficult online because I can't see the student's notes or work as they are writing stuff down, so this has helped me improve my communication skills, since I have to verbalize what I want to show them and also have to keep track of their work through what they tell me in their word. Luckily, I've been able to figure everything out that I need to, but it definitely has taken longer at times than when other THINK TANK tutors could be around me to help solve difficult problems.
How has your major helped you in your job?
Tutoring is actually what got me interested in the neuroscience major, because in high school I tutored a girl with epilepsy and was fascinated by the way she recuperated after having a seizure, especially when she would try to do math immediately after. Now, I think my major has helped me to be aware of different learning abilities students have, and it has kept me interested in how each student approaches math differently, because different routes of getting to an answer make more sense to different students.
What has been your most rewarding experience?
My most rewarding experiences are when I help a student multiple times and they come back later just to tell me how well they did on an exam. When I remind them that it wasn't my help but their hard work that got them that grade, it is beautiful to see how proud they are of themselves, and you can see in their eyes that at least for a second they feel like they can accomplish anything. That is the feeling I try to instill in everyone I work with, so it is so special to see that come to life.
How do you balance your work at THINK TANK with your schoolwork, extracurricular activities and personal life?
The best part about working at THINK TANK is that my supervisors are so encouraging and supportive of each of our educational goals, and make sure that above everything else, that we are succeeding in school and getting the time we need to do our schoolwork. Anytime I need to take time off of work to focus on school, both my coworkers and supervisors are more than happy to step in and help me out. In regard to balancing everything else, it is super helpful for me to have a daily list of what I want to accomplish.
What are your post-graduation plans?
Next fall I will be attending medical school! I am still in the process of interviewing at and hearing back from some schools, but I have gotten into one so far – the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. I am not sure what specialty I am interested in yet, but one day I hope to have my own private practice or clinic.
Gabriela Harrod is a student employee in the Office of University Communications.