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August 2019 Newsletter

From the Dean...

Welcome to the New Year! 

My hope is that you enjoyed a restorative summer and that you are re-energized for the year ahead. To our new faculty and staff colleagues, I extend an extra special welcome.  May you find the CSUSM community welcoming to you. 

With the start of the academic year, the Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUGS) and its multiple academic learning centers are moving to the new Extended Learning Building. This well-lit new space is our team’s first opportunity to be together under one roof, a wonderful way to celebrate our 5th anniversary.  We are optimistic that this new space will afford additional academic support opportunities for students. Bring your classes by for a visit to the Centers for Learning and Academic Success Services! 

The learning centers are at the heart of the direct academic support OUGS provides CSUSM students. Supported by 150 trained peer educators, these learning centers supported over 54,000 student visits during the past academic year. Wow! Thank you, faculty and staff, for directing students to these learning centers and for your key role in recommending students to serve as peer educators in CLASS.  

Data continue to suggest that students who make at least five visits to a single learning center per semester tend to earn higher grades. Visiting the learning centers early and often is sage advice. Below is suggested syllabus/Cougar Course language. In the words of one of our peer educators, “The more you go, the more you know.” 

Thanks to a grant through a CSU-consortium, June 12th we launched the CougarBot, an artificial intelligence tool that helps the campus connect with and support new first-year and transfer students. Over time, we look forward to scaling-up this bot to reach all CSUSM students. 

Finally, in a short five years OUGS has initiated or partnered with you in securing $14.3 million in grants and awards to support students’ academic success.  As you will notice below, thanks to staff and faculty partnerships, we continue to submit grants as we work together to further develop targeted academic support for our students.  

Best wishes in the New Year! We know that the more students believe that they belong, the better they do academically Thank you for all you do to enrich this vibrant learning community.  

Cheers to the start of the New Year! 


Dawn M. Formo, Ph.D.  

Dean, Undergraduate Studies  

Division of Academic Affairs 

Syllabi Language from the Centers for Learning and Academic Success Services  

Faculty are our most powerful partners in engaging students with academic support resources on our campus. To assist you in directing students to campus academic support resources, we have drafted language that you may include on your syllabi/cougar courses about each center/program and have provided contact info for each center/program. We look forward to working with you to ensure students have access to available academic resources.   


STEM Student Success Center and Math Lab Merge 

The Office of Undergraduate Studies is thrilled to announce we are putting the “M” back in STEM! This fall the Math Lab and STEM Student Success Center will unify as the STEM Success Center under the direction of the current math lab director, Jen Brich. 

From the STEM Success Center, students can expect the same helpful tutoring and robust programming that has supported them in the past, as well as new offerings streamlined into a one-stop service in our exciting new space on the second floor of the Extended Learning building. 

Our merge will not only bring new opportunities for students, but it will also allow for new collaborations with staff and faculty across campus. As we create a unified vision for serving students, faculty and staff will play invaluable roles. 

We’re excited about the unified experience this will bring for our students as we join two thriving centers into one robust hub of STEM learning and resources. 

OUGS and Learning Centers Now Located in ELB!

Starting this Fall, the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the learning centers (Writing Center, STEM Success Center, Academic Success Center, & Supplemental Instruction) will be situated on the second floor of the new Extended Learning building. 


Language Tutoring Available in the Academic Success Center 

With changes to the Language Other than English Requirement, the Language Learning Center closed June 30, 2019.  Please know that language tutoring continues in the Academic Success Center for the languages taught in Modern Language Studies. Trained peer educators are prepared to support your students. 


CSUSM Chatbot Supporting Our Incoming Students  

On June 12, CSUSM launched its first ever chatbot, or virtual assistant, called CougarBot, with the goal of offering our incoming first-year and transfer students the ability to ask all kinds of questions relating to their time at CSUSM and get responses 24/7. This project is being funded by an Irvine Foundation grant, and CSUSM is collaborating with six other CSUs to further develop the technology and tailor it to our student population. So far, CougarBot has received and responded to thousands of questions and has also sent out numerous messages to our students providing important information and reminding them of upcoming deadlines. Overall reception has been very positive, and we are hopeful that CougarBot will continue to be a valuable communication and engagement tool that helps our students navigate college successfully.   



Title V – Academic Connections Project. PI Dr. Adam Petersen. Request: $2,867,032 over 5 years.  This project aims to close achievement gaps during the first and second year with a  focus on math and writing support. 

Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP)--Facilitating Identity, Retention, and Successful Transition to STEM (FIRST2STEM). Co-PIs Drs. Stephen Tsui and Adam Petersen. Request: $748,966 over 3 years.  This project supports STEM majors who need math support in the first two years on their path to calculus.