The Preus Library Basement: TRIO & SASC: providing plentiful resources

If you walk past the SASC and TRIO offices at any point during the day you are likely to see students chatting with the staff in those offices, hear the discussion of numerous student tutors, and watch a study group draw diagrams on a whiteboard. Both offices create safe spaces for students to improve their college experiences.

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The Preus Library Basement: TRIO & SASC: providing plentiful resources

Students laugh with Advisor and Tutoring coordinator Chivonne Marlow.

Students laugh with Advisor and Tutoring coordinator Chivonne Marlow.

Natalie Nelson (‘19) | Chips

Students laugh with Advisor and Tutoring coordinator Chivonne Marlow.

Natalie Nelson (‘19) | Chips

Natalie Nelson (‘19) | Chips

Students laugh with Advisor and Tutoring coordinator Chivonne Marlow.

Natalie Nelson, Staff Writer

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The Student Academic Support Center is located next to the TRIO office. The two organizations, however, are unrelated. SASC provides support to all students through tutoring, time management support, instruction in study skills, and one-on-one meetings with students who have concerns that interfere with their academics. Last year, SASC employed 90 tutors and had 536 tutor contracts. Gwen Van Gerpen (‘01) has been the Director of SASC for the last 13 years. She manages the services SASC offers while also meeting individually with students.

“I love working with students,” Van Gerpen said. “I started as a high school teacher. I love to teach and I love to be in front of a classroom but the thing that gets me the most jazzed is being able to have relationships and one-on-one conversations with students because I feel like I am better able to help people.”

Van Gerpen is from Lowden, Iowa and graduated from Luther in 2001 with a history major.

Natalie Nelson (‘19) | Chips
Jenna Eichberger at her office in SASC.

“I never thought when I was a student that I would be working here,” Van Gerpen said. “An opportunity to come back to Luther opened up and I thought, ‘Huh, that’s pretty cool’. I really valued my Luther experience and I loved Decorah and I wanted to be able to come back.”

Coordinator of Tutoring and Academic Support at SASC Jenna Eichberger recruits, hires, and trains all of the tutors and matches students with tutors.

“I love the work with our tutors; our tutors are very bright,” Eichberger said. “I am always impressed at the quality of people we’re able to find, how well they work with students and a lot of times they work really independently, so I always feel really lucky that every year we’re able to get a good crew in here.”

Eichberger is from Black River Falls, Wisconsin. She was a tutor herself during her time as an undergraduate at University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire and went into a program for her master’s degree in student affairs administration seven years ago. She came to Luther after completing her masters’ in 2011.

“I really enjoy the faculty and staff at Luther, we collaborate a lot,” Eichberger said. “We get their input and they sometimes help with training in the form of meeting with the tutors and giving them advice. They help us recruit and give us recommendations. I appreciate that they’re really committed to working with the students that are struggling; they make time, they have office hours, and they want to help them.”

Photo courtesy of Tammy Hove
Director of TRIO Tammy Hove.

TRIO is a federally-funded program that helps first-generation college students with financial needs with the transition into college and to be successful throughout their college years. At Luther, TRIO serves about 180 students. Tammy Hove is the director of the program as well as one of three advisors.

“I really like the mix between the administrative side of things and working directly with students,” Hove said. “It allows me to be creative and think big picture, but it also allows me to get into the nitty gritty details and help our students and figure out how we can best serve them. I wouldn’t do this job if I couldn’t work with the students.”

Hove has lived in Iowa her entire life and has been working in higher education for almost 30 years. She worked at a community college for 20 years before her decision to come to Luther ten years ago. Both of her kids attended Luther.

“I was really excited about working with first-generation students with financial need,” Hove said. “What sold me was that the day of the interview, they had arranged for a group of TRIO students to meet with me and I could just tell how strongly they felt about the program and the staff.”

Hove said the most rewarding part of her job is working with the students.

“They inspire me as much as hopefully the work that we do inspires them to go off and become the best they can be and do great things in the world,” Hove said. “And I love my team. They’re lovely, they’re loyal, and they’re looney.”

Cheryl Wieseler is an advisor and tutoring coordinator at TRIO and the teacher of the fall Foundations classes which serve as a support for student learning. According to Wieseler, 85 percent of eligible students participate in the program. Older students sometimes become peer leaders who assist in the classes and give advice to first-year students.

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Wieseler
Advisor and Tutoring Coordinator Cheryl Wieseler.

“More than anything, it’s rewarding seeing the students who really struggled at first and were kind of lost and then getting it figured out and going from this really rough first semester to, usually a year later, being a totally different student, having it figured out, and giving advice to other students who are going through the same things,” Wieseler said.

Wieseler is originally from Nebraska and moved to Decorah in 2003 for this job after getting her master’s. Before Luther, she taught at a high school and worked for one year as a program coordinator for an after-school program on the Omaha native reservation in Macy, Nebraska.

“I really enjoyed it,” Wieseler said. “I love being able to facilitate the learning and the decisions and the guidance that we’re able do here. It’s kind of a home away from home for students and we like that we’re able to do that.”

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