Pathway to the Head of the Class Academic Resource Center offers tutoring, study groups, and skills-building workshops

Issue Date: 
August 26, 2009
Gail AustinGail Austin

University of Pittsburgh undergraduates looking to carve their niches at the head of the class can find numerous free resources at the Academic Resource Center (ARC).

Along with a seemingly never-ending supply of freshly popped corn, several other things are on ARC’s menu, including walk-in and by-appointment tutoring, study groups, skills-building workshops, and access to the PittNet wireless network.

The center, based in the Gardner Steel Conference Center, has dozens of highly trained peer tutors as well as numerous study-skill workshops, including essay exam preparation, time management, and stress management.

Gail Austin, director of the center, says high achievers are the most likely to take advantage of the ARC’s tutoring services.

“By and large, the students who come to us are high achievers,” says Austin. “We hope students understand that this is not a place you come to when you are in trouble or not doing well academically—though we can cater to those students as well.”

Austin says the ARC can help students adjust to college. “Sometimes first-year students have a hard time with fall semester and realize, come spring, that there are services available to help them experience a smoother transition,” says Austin. “And then some students hit the ground running and are looking for services to help them from day one—immediately engaging the institution and taking advantage of everything that is offered here.”

The ARC is open for walk-in tutoring and scheduled appointments Mondays through Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays from 8:30 to 5 p.m. For students whose schedules don’t accommodate a visit to the center, satellite tutoring is now available after hours in collaboration with the Office of Residence Life in Litchfield Towers, Lothrop and Sutherland halls, Hillman Library, and the William Pitt Union. Because of students’ growing interest in the ARC, this year for the first time the center will offer tutoring beginning on the first day of classes.

Juan Manfredi, associate dean of Undergradute Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences, calls the ARC the gateway to academic excellence for all of Pitt’s undergraduate students.

“The ARC plays a central role in providing high-quality programs in the arts and sciences and professional fields for our outstanding students,” says Manfredi. “As the quality of our undergraduate student body continues to rise, coupled with the University’s growing reputation, the ARC is positioned to support our students to meet the challenges of a premier research university.”

The academic subjects that bring the most students to the center for tutoring are biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and economics, says Austin.

Students who schedule appointments will receive ample quality time to engage with tutors, according to Austin. Tips on how best to utilize the ARC tutors are available on the center’s Web site (

“Students need to come prepared with a number of questions for the peer tutor to help them address,” says Austin. “Some students expect to just come in and have the tutors give them all the answers. But we work toward the goal of students mastering their course material.”

The ARC also offers peer-led study groups, where student-centered and managed groups are available for students taking introductory courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. These voluntary small group sessions, facilitated by undergraduate peer leaders, enable students to have detailed discussions about class issues, concepts, and study strategies.

“With all of these resources available through the ARC, there is no reason why students can’t get the help they need or have their questions answered,” says Austin.

Tutoring is the ARC’s most-used service, but there is much more to the center. It also houses Facilitating Opportunity and Climate for Underrepresented Students (FOCUS), a peer-mentoring program that helps students make successful transitions from high school to college life; Upward Bound, which provides fundamental support to high school students preparing for college by helping them improve their grades and social skills and identify interests and potential career paths; and Student Support Services, a college retention program that assists students with basic college requirements and motivates them to complete their postsecondary education.

For more information about ARC services or to make an appointment with a tutor, call 412-648-7920 or visit