Peer educator Alvaz Khan, left, tutors software engineering freshman Sita Lana on Aug. 30 at the IDEAS Center in the Central Library. The IDEAS Center was nominated as a finalist for the 2019 Star Award.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board announced the IDEAS Center as a finalist for the 2019 Star Awards.

The Star Award program recognizes exceptional contributions toward meeting goals aligned within the 60x30 goals, according to a coordinating board press release.

The board received 45 nominations and 37 applications for this year’s Star Awards program, which were then narrowed down to seven finalists. Winners will be announced Nov. 22 during the annual Star Awards luncheon and ceremony in Austin, Texas.

The center meets the 60x30 plan goals by helping in degree completion and helping students acquire marketable skills, said Jennifer Luken Sutton, IDEAS Center project director, in an email.

“I am proud that the hard work from the teams of staff and partnerships has led us this far,” Sutton said. “Over the years, we have grown and accomplished our goals and other milestones, this award is an example of one.”

The IDEAS Center, housed in the second floor of the Central Library, is funded by a Department of Education grant aimed at providing tutoring and mentoring services to transfer students, veterans, sophomores, first-generation college students and those reentering school after a break, according to the center’s website.

“Our services target specific student groups and courses because we are intentional about where we focused our efforts,” Sutton said.

Associate director Isaiah Ross said the center’s resources and employees recognize that unique populations require unique solutions.

“The IDEAS Center plays a critical role in removing some of those barriers that [unique populations] face,” Ross said.

Since opening in 2015, the center has increased the number of students served, and the space available has expanded — spanning the entire south side of the second floor of the Central Library, Sutton said.

The space includes a number of couches, chairs, tables and seats for students to use, as well as large movable white boards and access to power outlets.

They have also doubled the number of peer educators on staff in 2018-2019, increasing from 24 positions to 45, she said.

Sutton said an increasing demand for services and growth within partnerships have led to expansion.

Senior peer educator Ben Materne said he has a passion for education and appreciates that the center supports its tutors.

“Through different professional developments and trainings, it helps us become better tutors and mentors,” Materne said.

Malcolm Iglehart, computer science engineering freshman, said he returned to college after a break and was directed to the IDEAS Center. The center has helped Iglehart understand the topics that he was going over in class, he said.

“[The tutor] was very knowledgeable, every question I had he was able to help me,” Iglehart said.

Sutton said she hopes to continue outreach and to serve as many students as possible.

“Although we have target groups that the grant was designed to serve, we do not turn away our students — everybody who comes to the center is served,” she said.



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