SAM Center helps students achieve academic goals

Dr. Bernice Strauss, director of academic support programs at SHSU, is excited about her job, and about the students behind it.

Strauss oversees the newly implemented Bearkat Learning Community and Study Skills Groups, both relatively new to SHSU and aiding students in achieving academic goals.

Study Skills Groups are student-taught classes on time management, procrastination, test taking, reading textbooks, stress management, test anxiety and note taking. The groups are designed to guide students and refine their managing skills.

“Classes are really relaxed. It’s not set up like a formal classroom,” Strauss said.

The group leaders, or teachers, are trained students who maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

“They have a lot of hands on experience in what it means to be a student,” she said.

According to Strauss, over 400 students participated in the six sessions offered last semester

Students sign up at the SAM Center to attend one group per week for six weeks. Each meeting covers a different topic on organizational or academic skills.

Many professors on campus offer extra credit for attending the programs.

Students who participate in Study Skills Groups take a learning and strategy pre-test upon entering the program, and a post-test upon exiting. Strauss said all students involved in the groups improved dramatically.

Students who attended the groups last semester felt the classes helped them greatly.

One student said, “I believe this is a great program.”

Another student commented on the evaluation form, “Our presenter was top notch and was helpful in that he related our situations to his own life.”

Groups are offered to all students every hour on Mondays and Tuesdays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Wednesdays and Thursdays, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and on Fridays, between 9 a.m. and noon. This semester’s sessions begins Feb. 3.

Strauss also directs the Bearkat Learning Community, the freshman “living and learning” program at SHSU, in its second year. Students involved in the BLC live together in either Vick or Randle Houses, have at least two classes together and are required to attend the Study Skills Groups.

“(The BLC is an) incentive community of students who live, learn and socialize together, though they’re also committed to other activities on (and off) campus,” Strauss said.

It is also a year-long commitment. Students must take two of the five core classes offered with the BLC, which have a reserved block of seats specifically for the program during registration.

Incoming freshman apply for the program, which does not accrue additional fees or charges other than standard room and board, and students are selected at random, with similar numbers of both men and women involved. This year 90 students are participating in the program.

The average grade point average of students in the BLC is 2.58, higher than the non-participating freshman average.

Strauss said she believes the higher GPA is due to the fact that students are in closer environments, both academically and socially.

“Those are the things you want to happen in a learning community,” she said.

There are currently two student resident assistants, Christina Bertini and Jackie Steward, who live in the houses with the freshmen. Two additional students involved in the program, Megan Reynolds and Penny Roberts, publish a newsletter each month.

“They’ve really adopted the values of a learning community,” Strauss said. “They’re the ones that really make this work.”

For more information regarding Study Skills Groups or Bearkat Learning Community, visit the SAM Center in AB4 Room 210, or contact Strauss at

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