Tutoring services through the TutorZone will be free for students this academic year, thanks to the support of generous donors and the Parents Fund.

Since free tutoring was announced on Oct. 6, more than 507 students have signed up for more than 1,588 appointments — almost as many students as were seen in the entire 2021-2022 academic year, when 529 students received tutoring.

“As part of our Vision 2026 commitment to evolving to excel, we want to ensure the entire William & Mary experience is accessible to every student, and that everyone who comes here can flourish. Removing any barriers to tutoring is a tremendous way to invest in our students’ success. All students should have the support they need to thrive in the classroom,” said Ginger Ambler ’88, Ph.D. ’06, vice president for student affairs.

The TutorZone provides students with tutoring for more than 150 courses, including but not limited to chemistry, biology, economics, business, history, languages, computer science, and kinesiology. Sessions are generally one-to-one, although to meet increased demand, some group walk-in sessions will be available this academic year. Sessions take place in the TutorZone at Swem Library, via Zoom or at the Academic Wellbeing suite at the Sadler Center. 

Two people work on laptops together at a table
Tutors are peers who received an A or A- in the course they are tutoring. (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)

Tutors are peers who received an A or A- in the course they are tutoring. Alongside providing help with coursework, tutors support students as they develop other skills for success in the classroom, such as note-taking, test taking, studying, and building relationships with professors.

Shari Rosenthal and Marlene King, parents of a student in the Class of 2025, made a leadership gift to the TutorZone in honor of the new Sadler Center expansion. They are members of the Parent & Family Council and live in California. This fall, the Parents Fund provided additional funding allowing for free tutoring services for all students this academic year.

The Parents Fund supports the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement and the four thematic areas of Student Affairs: Campus Living, Health & Wellness, Student Engagement & Leadership, and Student Success. The Parent & Family Council champions these departments and family philanthropy, but the Parents Fund is for all families. Current parents, parents of alumni, grandparents, other family members and friends can all contribute to the Parents Fund for the success of our students.

“William & Mary students are challenged to excel academically and it’s comforting to know the TutorZone is now free to all students. We hope that making their resources available to everyone at no cost will only encourage more students to reach out for the support when they need it,” said Rosenthal.

Students work together at a table
The TutorZone provides students with tutoring for more than 150 courses. (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)

Last year, the TutorZone celebrated its 10th anniversary. In the year that the program began, it offered 984 hours of tutoring, a number that reached 3,562 hours in the last academic year. A goal of the anniversary was to increase visibility of the center and remove the stigma of asking for help — so that students of all abilities can benefit from resources like the TutorZone to make their W&M experience easier.

“I really have enjoyed the people at the TutorZone, and their willingness not only to help me with the subject I signed up for, but general advice on how to proceed with my time here at William & Mary,” said Lauren Cook ’26, a biology major. The TutorZone currently has a 95.5% satisfaction rating based on surveys of students who use the service.

Time management sessions are also offered at the TutorZone, along with weekly one-on-one coaching sessions for students that need additional support. These coaches are graduate students from W&M Law School, the School of Education and the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, providing a successful connection point between graduate and undergraduate students. While the time management classes are free, the coaching sessions are still a paid service.

“We recognize that life is a blend of in- and out-of-classroom experiences for our students, and the support available at the TutorZone aims to help students develop the skills they will need to find success not only in their classes, but also other aspects of their lives that require study, time management, prioritization, and dedication,” said Wilmarie Rodriguez Ed.D. ’21, senior associate dean of students.

People pose for a photo together by a TV screen with a large W&M cypher showing
The Academic Wellbeing team, left to right: Wilmarie Rodriguez Ed.D. ’21, senior associate dean of students; Colleen Rogers, assistant director of academic wellbeing; Dennis Kerwin, assistant director of academic wellbeing; Cenie Bellamy, assistant dean of students and director of academic wellbeing; Katja Rogers, administrative assistant. (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)

There are currently about 80 tutors, although more will be hired as demand continues to increase. Tutors not only practice academic skills while helping their peers, they also build relationships across class years and majors, earn money and gain teaching, mentoring and customer service experience to use in their future careers. They use job skills such as maintaining their personal schedules, completing biweekly timesheets, undergoing staff and tutee evaluations, and staying up to date on best practices via professional development — skills that align well with W&M’s careers initiative as part of Vision 2026.

The TutorZone is a certified International Tutor Training Program by the College Reading & Learning Association (CRLA), which assures that tutors provide the highest quality services to all students. William & Mary covers the cost for tutors to earn their certifications, which they can use for life.

The TutorZone is operated by the Office of Academic Wellbeing, which this summer was created from the merger of Enrollment Support Services and Academic Enrichment Programs. The Office of Academic Wellbeing works with students to successfully complete their academic goals, including navigating academic standards and continuance requirements, communicating with professors during an emergency and connecting students with helpful resources.

The Academic Wellbeing team has even created a poem to highlight their approach:

W – We work with students through their journey

E –  Engage them in reflection and learning

L – Link them to resources they may need, and

L – Love on them so they can achieve their dreams!

“Integrative wellness — wellness in all its dimensions — is a hallmark of the William & Mary experience for students. As our students pursue excellence in the classroom, wellness must also include the way they approach their academics, how academics are integrated into their lives and how they set themselves up for success. The TutorZone is just one of the ways we help students develop those skills,” said Ambler.

The Parents Fund has enabled the office to hire two graduate assistants as well as three lead tutors, experienced student tutors who help train new hires. These positions have been integral as the TutorZone expects to surpass all previous usage.

“I am blessed to lead a magnificent team of diverse professionals whose priority is the wellbeing of our students. Their grit, dedication, creativity, and passion for helping students help me in dreaming big and creating pathways for our students’ success. As an alumna of this great institution, I am proud to have the TutorZone as part of my legacy, and I hope that it will continue to serve William & Mary’s students for generations to come.”

Wilmarie Rodriguez Ed.D. ’21

The staff of the Office of Academic Wellbeing are now settling into their new location in the Sadler Expansion — what Cenie Bellamy, assistant dean of students and director of academic wellbeing, calls “the sweetest suite in the Sadler Center” because of the welcoming environment and the care the staff shows each student. While the TutorZone is located in Swem Library, the Sadler Center offices are used for student appointments with staff, tutor training and some student programming.

“We care for the whole student and what’s going on in their lives outside the classroom, too — our goal is that they feel better when they leave than when they came in,” Bellamy said. “When we talk to parents about the services we offer, they tell us about the sense of relief they feel, knowing their students will be fully supported.”

The Academic Wellbeing staff works to build partnerships with departments and faculty across campus to spread the word about tutoring services and recruit new tutors. They introduce the TutorZone to students and their parents during orientation and Family Weekend and work closely with W&M Athletics, W&M Scholars Undergraduate Research Experience (known as WMSURE) and Preparing for Life as a University Student (known as PLUS, a high school to college transition program).

“I love being able to work at the TutorZone on campus, and more specifically the Office of Academic Wellbeing. While tutoring, I am able to extend help to other students who may need extra support in their classes,” said Amanda Merkin ’23, who is a government major and a returning tutor this year. “I also became a time management consultant last year, and this year I was able to take a larger role in running the time management trainings. Balancing my schedule is a skill that comes naturally to me, and I want to be there for others who just need some extra tips.”

Tutoring sessions last year cost $15 for 60 minutes or $20 for 90 minutes. Most other similarly ranked universities offer these services for free. Last year, $15,315 in scholarships for tutoring was awarded to 160 students. Rodriguez said the cost was a barrier for students to use the TutorZone, and the surge in appointments now that the service is free speaks to the success of removing this barrier.

“My dream when I began to lead this department was to offer inclusive programs to all our students, regardless of their background or economic situation. That dream has come true thanks to the tremendous support of our parents,” she said. “I am grateful to see that our parents recognize the importance of offering this resource to all our students, and the funds they provided are making a real, positive impact in many students’ lives.”