For Natalie Sneed, tutoring means more than just helping someone get a better test grade. It’s about assisting her peers to find a way to stretch their own strengths and form better habits and skills to use throughout their lives.
After enrolling at Nebraska, her friends sought her help when struggling in the Introductory Accounting I (ACCT 201) course. Explaining the subject matter to her friends, Sneed realized she had a knack for teaching accounting. Unsure of how to pursue her desire to help others, she asked former dean of the College of Business, Dr. Donde Plowman.
“I told her I wanted to be a peer mentor for Accounting 201. She immediately went to talk to Dr. Crabtree and I started the very next week,” she said.
During her fourth semester tutoring, a student came for help three weeks prior to the final exam, averaging a 55 on all of her previous exams. The student needed at least an 85 to pass the class, which would be difficult. Thanks to the time spent working with Sneed the next few weeks, the student earned a 98 on the final exam.
“I was thrilled. I was at a point where I was on the fence whether to keep tutoring because of my full schedule. Her grade renewed my energy to tutor another semester because it was tangible evidence that I had an impact on people’s lives,” she shared.
She also feels accomplished knowing she can help students find support and resources.
“For some students, they need support they don’t know how to ask for, like going to the Services for Students with Disabilities Office. Test anxiety is a difficult concept to explain. Not a lot of students know you are not supposed to be so nervous taking a test that you cannot think straight. So being able to identify those things and point them in the right direction is important,” she said.
Tutoring positions shifted into the Teaching and Learning Center when Howard L. Hawks Hall opened in fall 2017. Students could also request a study skills tutor specifically.
“The study skills tutor may know nothing about the course material, but can help create a plan for how to learn it. Even when doing subject specific tutoring, people need to understand it is all about skills,” she explained.
“Understanding how to tackle a class is going to help you for the rest of your life because you are learning how to solve a problem. There is a lot of extraneous problem solving you end up doing outside of accounting.”
Tutoring never came without challenges, and Sneed faced her fair share. As a person whom accounting always felt natural, she needed to remind herself to empathize with students who did not feel the same way.
“By my fourth semester tutoring, everything felt so easy, I had to remember the challenge of it all. I reminded myself I was not talking to people who do this every day. I was talking to people who have never seen it before and never want to again. So not losing perspective on level of difficulty is important. I had to be able to diagnose their problems. They don’t know what’s wrong. They just know something isn’t working,” explained Sneed.
Sneed ends her undergraduate career at Nebraska proudly, as not only a dedicated tutor and student, but also as a Chancellor’s Scholar, the highest academic award the university gives to those who earned an A in every undergraduate class. Only 40 student scholars share the distinction in her entire graduating class this spring. Starting her MPA at Nebraska in the fall, the future she envisions for herself looks different from when she first arrived at the college.
“Being a tutor gave me more of a sense of belonging at Nebraska. I felt I was an integral part of what was going on here and that made my overall experience a lot more positive. Helping students out gave me more of a sense of purpose beyond just going to class,” said Sneed. “Tutoring was the first thing that ever made me consider teaching. If you had asked me a couple years ago, I would have said I would never do that. Now I could definitely see becoming a professor one day. It definitely made me consider a path I would not have otherwise.”