Bear Claw free tutoring for students opens at Meyer Library

Sep 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Campus News, Features, News, Top Story

by Zach Becker

Finding a tutor on campus has never been easier.

Thanks to the new Bear Claw (Center for Learning and Writing), students needing assistance in writing, math, or any subject taught on campus can find tutors quickly, easily, and all under one roof.

Located conveniently on the first floor of Meyer Library, the Bear Claw is designed to be “a comfortable place for students to come together and work,” according to Mike Frizell, Director of the Bear Claw.

With a staff of highly trained student tutors, Missouri State students are free to drop by to get some extra help with their assignments, free of charge, in the 10,000 square foot space.

The center is in the process of hiring subject-area tutors for any classes that students request, such as Chemistry 160 or Psychology 121.

“These are difficult, high demand classes where we never really had organized tutoring for them,” Frizell said.

The center already employs student tutors in writing and math.

Photo by Zach Becker. At right, Bear Claw Writing Center tutor Sarah Viehmann, graduate student in English Composition and Rhetoric, gives writing tips for a class paper to senior Allison Bates, an English Education major.

Photo by Zach Becker. At right, Bear Claw Writing Center tutor Sarah Viehmann, graduate student in English Composition and Rhetoric, gives writing tips for a class paper to senior Allison Bates, an English Education major.

Bear Claw tutor Kelly Bextermueller, a senior majoring in speech and language pathology, has enjoyed helping students improve their writing by working hand-in-hand with them.

“The one-on-one basis is more of a laid back environment,” Bextermueller said. “You see people improve over the course of time. It’s really rewarding.”

“In the classroom environment it’s really hard to get to know your students,” said Bear Claw tutor Sarah Viehmann, a graduate student in English composition and rhetoric. “(As a tutor), you get to form a relationship in order to help them with something as intimate as writing.”

While Missouri State did offer tutoring prior to the creation of the Bear Claw, students had to go to many different places to get it.

“We had a lot of splintering of services,” Frizell said. “Tutoring was handled by individual departments. Tutors had no formal training, other than being good at the subject.”

Frizell took over the Writing Center, which is now a separate entity within the Bear Claw, in 2005 and has worked to expand the service.

“(The Writing Center) had laid fallow for about a year and people weren’t really advertising it,” Frizell said. “There had been no new pedagogy (teaching methods) being introduced.”

Since Frizell took over, the Writing Center has grown from employing 10 writing tutors to 32. Student use of the Writing Center increased from 350 students in 2005 to 3,800 students last year.

Previously located in Pummill Hall and most recently Siceluff Hall, Frizell believes the new location for the Writing Center in Meyer Library will make it possible for even more students to utilize its services.

Writing Center tutors can assist students of any writing level, from undergraduate to doctoral. In fact, about 80 faculty members sent research papers through the Writing Center for suggestions last year.

The effort to incorporate these tutoring services under one roof through the Bear Claw was spearheaded by Frizell, as well as Diana Garland, Director of the Learning Commons, and Rachelle Darabi, Associate Provost of Student Development and Public Affairs.

About nine months were spent designing the space, accounting for “everything from colors to table top shape all the way to what would work best for student learning,” Frizell said. “We’ve got to make it convenient for students. Otherwise, they won’t use it.”

Frizell believes the central location in the library will increase student traffic for all tutoring services. He has also been working diligently to spread the word about the Bear Claw, promoting it to freshmen students during orientation and pitching the service to faculty to suggest to their students.

Students who try the service usually return.

“Most students who try it will come back more than once,” Frizell said. “Ninety-two percent of our clients (at the Writing Center) last year were repeat customers.”

“We try to get people excited about writing,” said Bear Claw tutor Rebecca James, a junior majoring in literature and gender studies. “I think it’s the hardest part but the best part.”

The Bear Claw Center for Learning and Writing can be found online at

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