For Megan McCann, ’20, math always came naturally and working as a tutor at the College of Business gave her the skills to become a champion. Teaching others helped her develop a new perspective that led her to first place in the statistical analysis competition at the Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) National Leadership Online Experience.
“I competed in statistics because I've always liked math. I took statistics my junior year of high school and AP statistics my senior year while I tutored statistics at the college level. For 10 semesters in college, I tutored statistics and that's how I started competing in statistics at the PBL conferences. I knew the material so I gave it a shot,” said McCann, an actuarial science major who won first place in statistics at the state-level PBL conferences for three years straight before taking home the national title this year.
Both faculty and other student tutors highly recommended McCann for tutoring to Dr. Kasey Linde, assistant director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the College of Business. For Linde, she immediately connected how McCann could help students excel.
“Several of the current TLC tutors knew Megan through the Nebraska Business Honors Academy and raved about how she not only was brilliant but had the ability to breakdown complex concepts so anyone can understand. The first time I met Megan it was clear she was a talented student and was gifted in many ways, but even more than that, her ability to figure out what is confusing students and explain it in a different manner was what made her a great teacher,” said Linde.
However, unlike math and numbers, tutoring did not come naturally for McCann. She had to learn the best way to communicate the intricate topics of statistics to students.
“When I started tutoring it, I was horrible. I started practicing more with different students to figure out what was working for them and what was happening as far as the disconnect going on between us and their brain. What I found is a lot of students are visual learners and a lot of statistics classes aren't taught that way, so it was about trying to bridge that gap,” she said.
Linde attested to McCann’s ability to put students at ease and feel comfortable learning about these complex topics.
“What made Megan so effective when it came to tutoring was her ability to translate this seemingly foreign language to students. Specifically in statistics, there are so many terms that students have never heard before, so Megan would find ways to explain each concept in a way that they could relate and understand. She was always able to create an analogy or example that helped bring the concept to life for students so it was no longer just theoretical,” explained Linde.
Learning how to teach a subject different ways not only enhanced McCann’s tutoring skills but also gave her an edge in the PBL statistics competitions. For the statistics competition, participants are given an hour to complete a 100-question test, making for a tight turnaround on each question. McCann’s ability to view a concept from multiple perspectives helped push her past the competition.
“I had to learn how to think about all these statistic concepts in a number of different ways. It gave me a really big advantage going into those exams because I can think about it every which way, and not just in the one way you may get taught in class,” said McCann, whose mother teaches statistics at Oklahoma State University, and helped foster a passion for numbers.
Now as an actuary associate at Mutual of Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska, McCann continues to see the benefits from tutoring spread into her professional career. To become a certified actuary, a series of exams must be completed to gain the proper credentials in the field. These exams can be intense, but for McCann, she draws similarities between the actuarial exams and the statistics tests from the PBL contests, which gives her a confidence boost when taking them.
“Both the statistics tests and the actuarial exams are taken online in very controlled settings. Being able to know I've already experienced a test that's going to be fast-paced and on a computer was really nice, because it felt like I'd already done a test run of the professional exams,” she said.
To Linde, McCann is a shining example of how students help other students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business.
“One of my favorite aspects of the College of Business is the fact that students like Megan, who are incredibly talented, choose to give back to their peers. Megan decided to dedicate a large portion of her college career to helping students academically through tutoring, but there are also students like her who are leading recognized student organizations, serving as cultural ambassadors for international students, and becoming Gallup-Certified Strengths Coaches so they can help others discover their potential,” she said.
To learn more about the college's Teaching and Learning Center, visit: http://business.unl.edu/tlc.
Published: August 11, 2020