by Meredith Dault
June 23, 2011
As Learning Strategies Counsellor, Kesek’s job is to help students overcome the hurdles that may be impeding their academic performance. “A big one for graduate students is stress management,” she continues. “People say ‘I’m feeling overwhelmed, or I’m starting to procrastinate’. Or they don’t have the same motivation that they had at the beginning.”
From offering one-on-one academic support for students at all levels, to leading workshops in everything from time management and presentation skills, to taming the inner critic, Kesek and her colleague, Linda Williams, (the Learning Strategies Program Coordinator) devote their days to helping students make the best of time in university.
“We help you optimize your academic performance,” says Williams, “and we can help you build or maintain confidence in your own abilities.”
Based both in the LaSalle Building (146 Stuart St.) and the Learning Commons in Stauffer Library (in room 142, from September 12), Williams explains that each location serves a different need. “If you come through Counselling Services, there will be an opportunity for several conversations, so you can explore a variety of issues, or you can refine strategies that you’re using now based on how successful they might be for you.”
The Learning Commons facility, by contrast, is designed as a consulting service, where students can drop in with a specific problem or question they want immediate help with (it can take between one and three weeks to get an appointment through Counselling Services). “Often issues come up and it’s something you want help with right away so you can move forward,” says Kesek. “We try to figure out what we can do to help you today.”
Both Kesek and Williams stress that whatever route students take, the goal of the Learning Strategies program is the same: developing practical tools for overcoming obstacles. “Our goal in meeting with students is that whenever they walk out the door they have something practical that they feel they can use,” explains Williams. “They aren’t counselling sessions dealing in abstract issues.”
If a student is struggling with procrastination, for example, Williams says a counsellor might help break a project down into smaller steps, or could help the student set realistic goals and deadlines. When it comes to writing a thesis, for example, Williams says it’s important to see it as managing a project. “We could help set up a series of tasks and deadlines,” she explains.
From September through until June, Learning Strategies also offers a number of workshops geared at undergraduate or graduate students. Held at Stauffer Library to groups no larger than 30 students, the 1 or 1.5 hour long, interactive workshops are also designed to teach useful tips and tools. The 2011-2012 grad series will include sessions on motivation and procrastination, managing the stress of graduate school and coping with presentation anxiety, among other topics.
“People often wonder why would I use these services. They think ‘I’m a graduate student, I have just completed my undergrad work, or I’ve already worked professionally - what could I possibly get out of this?’ Well, many people find that there is a shift in expectations between undergrad and graduate programs,” explains Williams. “Graduate students are expected to be functioning independently and autonomously, and to be able to keep themselves going with minimal structure and feedback from supervisors. For many people, that’s hard.”
She pauses and smiles at Kesek, who nods in agreement, before continuing. “We help people understand what the expectations are, and then reassure them that the difficulties they are having are common, and that there are always ways out of a problem.”
For tips on everything from time management and critical reading, to relieving presentation anxiety, visithttp://www.queensu.ca/learningstrategies/grad.html
To book an appointment with a Learning Strategies counsellor call 613-533-6000 x 78264, or drop by the Learning Commons at Stauffer Library.