By Rachel Anderson
A month into the second semester, coursework is starting to pile up as students are getting deep into group projects, essays, and exams. While some students may be overwhelmed, The Cove-Academic Enrichment Center exists to help students navigate their schoolwork and college careers.
The Cove has been providing free programs and services for all Cedarville students since it began in 2004. Now located on the upper level of the Center for Biblical and Theological Studies (BTS), The Cove provides a place for students to seek out academic help.
The Cove originally started in the Callan Athletic Center after interviewing and surveying hundreds of students about what services they would use. It was relocated in 2008 when the BTS was built. During its relocation, The Cove faculty and staff worked closely with the university to create an inviting environment for students in the BTS.
“We want students to feel a certain way when they walk in here. We want it to be an inviting space.” Director of The Cove Kim Ahlgrim said. “We just don’t want white walls and brown carpet. We want creativity. We want architecture. ”
When students come to The Cove, they enter into a calm, open space. Seashells adorn almost every table, candy sits on the front desk, and colorful, abstract artwork hangs on the green walls, illuminated by the sunlight shining through the large glass windows. They even have two dogs from 4 Paws For Ability to support students who walk into The Cove.
Every design choice in The Cove was intentional, according to Ahlgrim. There are offices, meeting rooms, a math lab, a large testing room named Boardwalk, and even seven private testing rooms available for students who have a documented disability registered with The Cove’s disability services. The testing rooms are each named after the staff members’ favorite places, such as Sanibel Island.
“Everything we do is strategic. Even the candy up front is strategic,” Algrim said. “If I can get people to walk in because they hear there’s good candy, then when they need help, they will come back.”
While the space is an important part of The Cove, the most used service occurs outside of the academic enrichment center. The Cove averages around 100 peer tutors a year, who logged 3,527 hours of tutoring last academic year, making it the number one service that they offer. Several areas fall under tutoring, such as peer tutoring, review sessions, tutoring labs, and faculty peer coaching.
“Every single year since The Cove started, it has grown which is amazing to see,” Ahlgrim said.
Tutoring is not the only service that The Cove offers, however. The Cove’s most used services include study skill courses, one-on-one faculty coaching, as well as disability services, which currently has 300 registered students.
Ahlgrim has watched The Cove grow from just three full-time employees to a team of eight, as well as five adjunct instructors. Before she worked with the cove, however, she served as the Resident Director of Printy Hall.
“I actually have an elementary education degree, but the minute I became an RD, I knew I was never going back,” Ahlgrim said. “ I decided to get my master’s once I started working with college students [and] I’ve been here ever since.”
Ahlgrim attributes part of The Cove’s growing number of students to this generation’s willingness to seek out help and take advantage of the free services. She also says the administration has helped The Cove stay ahead of the growth.
The Cove started by having students fill out paperwork and then assigning them a tutor, but with advancing technology and an influx of students, they restructured in 2010.
“We restructured it and that helped, but then it kept surging…It just kept ramping up to new levels,” Ahlgrim said.
In 2019, they needed to restructure the tutoring program yet again. They piloted the current version in the spring semester of 2020, providing a virtual tutoring option just before students were sent home due to COVID-19.
“It was so amazing because we were able to send an email to students the week they were sent home, saying, ‘the tutoring services have not changed for you, you can still get tutoring for any class.’ Because now all we had to do was press a button and it was online. So students were getting tutoring online tutoring all across the United States” Ahlgrim said. “We have had to adapt and restructure because it is important to address the growth issues.
Any undergraduate or graduate, or dual enrollment student can use these tutoring services at no cost. They simply go online and make an in-person or virtual appointment with a tutor for any class they need help with. They also have the option to meet with a tutor virtually.
“I want people to realize The Cove is for all students—every student freshman through senior,” Ahlgrim said.
Along with one-to-one tutoring, The Cove provides review sessions for the large classes on campus in which students typically struggle. The classes that have review sessions vary from semester to semester. This semester’s review sessions are for Digital Logic & Design (DLD), Politics & American Culture (PAC), Anatomy & Physiology I (A&PI), General Chemistry II, Organic Chemistry II, and Principles of Biology. The sessions are led by student Academic Peer Coaches (APC).
Junior Isaac Dykstra has been the PAC APC for the past two years, along with being a peer tutor for business classes. Dykstra hosts weekly review sessions on Thursday nights where students can drop in and ask him questions. He typically has around a dozen students stop by for one-on-one help with specific questions. However, he also holds exam review sessions, reaching around 260 students between his three sessions.
“I think by having a student explain the material, students are looking at it from a different perspective,” Dykstra said. “It helps you simplify it more to what you need to know for exams.”
Dykstra spends four to five hours planning for exam review sessions so students can feel prepared for the exam. He meets with the different professors, creates review questions, and personalizes the reviews based on the professor.
“I’ll put together summaries of the readings and information the professors said was important on slides, and then we’ll go over that and answer any questions they have,” Dykstra said. “And then I asked the professors to send me some practice sample questions, which they often do, or I often make my own practice questions…and I put those into a Kahoot. And then I send out all the material to the students afterward.”
Freshman Matt Shiel attended the PAC review sessions that Dykstra led last semester to prepare for his exam with Dr. Sims.
“I went to a few weekly review sessions, but I mostly just attended the exam reviews to get an upper hand on what content would be on the test and how the professor would test our knowledge of the content,” Shiel said. “Isaac Dykstra was very good in covering a lot of content with the main points and giving us specific content to study for the test.”
Students like Sheil are perfect examples of how The Cove provides an easy-going environment that can be adapted to any student that walks through the door. The Cove is not just for the struggling students in their office, they seek to be a voice of support to all students on campus whether they are an A student seeking to keep scholarships or a struggling student who needs help to pass a class. Ahlgrim and all of The Cove team want students to feel comfortable walking through the door, even if they do not need help at that moment.
“You know how you’re on vacation and you’re by the water? You can be completely yourself. There’s no need to be wearing masks. That tension is gone. You feel the freedom to be completely yourself,” Ahlgrim said. “That’s what we want people to experience when they come in [The Cove]. You realize something different is going on and it is going to be okay. The Cove should allow people to feel comfortable coming into a creative space.”
Photos by Ian Chan
Rachel Anderson is a sophomore AYA English education major. She enjoys running, reading, and traveling in her free time.