Posted on: April 9, 2020
First-year students at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy have seen such success with this year’s Rho Chi tutoring program that it is being transitioned to a virtual program for this semester, as the university adapts to the changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
For the first time any professors can remember, first-year students at the COP achieved a 100% pass rate in one of their most difficult classes, PHMY 621: Foundations of Pharmaceutical Chemistry & Pharmacogenomics I, during the Fall 2019 semester.
The Rho Chi tutoring program has been around in some form for the past ten years, according to Rho Chi Faculty Advisor Cynthia Phillips, Pharm.D. and associate professor in Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences (CPOS). The pharmacy academic honor society’s main service project is to provide support to first-year pharmacy students by offering free tutoring. Until now, students did not always take advantage of the opportunity.
During the Fall 2018 semester, Rho Chi President Rachel Traylor, working with the Rho Chi members, began the process of transforming the program. “We met with faculty to set foundations, then it was our current chairs, Jessica Shue and Brenae Wilson, along with 2019-20 Rho Chi President Austin Roe, who took it to the next level,” Phillips says.
“Instead of having everyone tutor for different classes, we honed in on the classes that everyone struggled with the most,” says Shue. They created ‘pods’ for pharmaceutical chemistry, pathophysiology, pharmaceutical calculations and biochemistry.
Shue and Wilson then recruited tutors from Rho Chi members to volunteer in the areas each was strongest. “We had four to five tutors for each specific pod. That allowed the first-year students to know which tutors to go to if they needed help in a particular course,” Wilson adds.
To make the tutoring sessions more accessible for students, Shue and Wilson worked with Amy Grant, Pharm.D. and associate dean for student affairs and diversity. “Sessions typically were scheduled in the afternoons and evenings previously,” says Phillips, “and Dr. Grant was able to work with other student organizations’ schedules to make the sessions easier to attend by holding them on the same day each week right after first-year classes.”
One professor was so impressed with how our tutors were presenting the information that he is planning to incorporate some of those methods into his classroom presentations.
Brenae Wilson, Pharm.D. Candidate Co-Chair, Rho Chi Tutoring Program
Wilson also acknowledged the faculty for their support. “Some of the professors came to sessions and provided feedback to make sure we were focusing on what needed to be included,” she says. “One professor was so impressed with how our tutors were presenting the information that he is planning to incorporate some of those methods into his classroom presentations.”
The chapter had 100 percent participation as all twenty-one Rho Chi members served as tutors for the program, each putting in a great deal of time to ensure they were prepared to assist first-year students. “We have learned that how much you put into the program is almost directly related to how much you get back and how much it benefits the students,” says Shue.
Senior Associate Dean Julie Sease, Pharm.D., says the Rho Chi tutoring program provides first-year students with an opportunity to hear from students who have gone before them and who have experienced success. “The program teaches them effective ways to approach material that is likely quite different from anything they experienced as an undergraduate.” She commends Shue and Wilson for pushing ahead even in the face of the adversity posed by the campus closure. “The easy thing to do would have been to simply forgo tutoring. However, our students are committed, as are our faculty and staff and, because of that, they found a way to make it happen.”