Letter from the Dean
Faculty and Staff,
The final weeks of the semester are upon us. I’m certain you and your students feel
the energy and the anxiousness as we work towards final exams. Know that the learning centers (Academic Success Center, Language Learning Center, Math Lab, STEM Student Success
Center, and Writing Center) are open and available to students. The heart of these
centers is well-trained peer educators. In addition to providing support right now,
we are preparing for the next academic year. I encourage you to compliment your students’
successful academic work by recommending them for paid positions in one of our centers.
See the call below.
Students may need more than academic support. As you likely now know, Cougar Care Network (CCN) is CSUSM’s innovative early support initiative that allows Faculty and Staff to refer students for additional information, resources,
and support to ensure their personal and academic success. If you think a student
needs support, he or she likely does. Simply click here or read below for more information.
Finally, I close with news of additional support for students. The Office of Undergraduate
Studies (OUGS) welcomes Dr. Tasos Lazarides who serves as our Innovation & Engagement
Specialist and Ms. Amanda Tomanek as the Academic English Specialist in the Writing
Center. Thanks to an Irvine Foundation Grant, OUGS joins a 7-member CSU consortium
that will launch artificial intelligence chatbots for first-year students on each
of our campuses. Read below on the ways this tool will support incoming students and
free resources for addressing more complex requests.
Best wishes in the final weeks of the semester!
Dawn M. Formo, Ph.D.
Dean, Undergraduate Studies
Division of Academic Affairs
Help Us Support Students' Academic Success
Recommend Students for Paid Positions as Learning Center Tutors and Supplemental Instruction
Celebrate the academic success of your students by recommending them for positions
as peer educators! The Centers for Learning and Academic Success Services (Writing
Centers, Math Lab, Academic Success Center, STEM Student Success Center) are looking
to hire peer educators for Fall 2019. As in previous semesters, the center directors
are looking to our faculty partners, whose knowledge of student skills is invaluable,
to refer students for potential employment as tutors and Supplemental Instruction
If you have any students in mind that would make great peer educators, please fill out this very short form and let them know they have been recommended. We know how much students appreciate
professors acknowledging their hard work.
Cougar Care Network
Working with a student who needs help now?
Refer a student to the Cougar Care Network
What Is the Cougar Care Network (CCN)?
|Student Affairs successfully launched the Cougar Care Network (CCN) in Fall 2015.
CCN is CSUSM’s innovative early support initiative that allows Faculty and Staff to
refer students for additional information, resources, and support to ensure their
personal and academic success. The Cougar Care Network serves as a safety net to assist
students who may be experiencing challenges in- or outside the classroom. More information
about the Cougar Care Network can be found at the CCN website or by calling the Dean of Students Office at 760-750-4935.
Common Referrals include both Academic and Behavioral Concerns such as the following:
- Poor performance on homework, quizzes, exams, assignments, etc.
- Frequent absences that could impede the student’s ability to pass the class
- Personal issues impacting success such as food insecurity, financial challenges, suicidal
remarks or attempts, homelessness, withdrawal or isolation, depression, anxiety, other
mental health concerns, etc. Your awareness of these personal issues may evince themselves
in conversations with your students or in their coursework.
- Disruptive behavior such as aggression, heightened emotional distress, frequently
falling asleep in class, inappropriate interactions with faculty or other students,
Faculty and staff will receive acknowledgement of receipt of their referral and additional follow-up will occur as needed or appropriate.
OUGS Team Additions
OUGS Welcomes Dr. Tasos Lazarides
It is with enthusiasm that the Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUGS) welcomes Dr.
Tasos Lazarides as our Innovation & Engagement Specialist, a position funded by our
2015 Governor’s Innovation Award. In this role, he guides OUGS and its learning centers
in identifying technological solutions and other innovative approaches to enhance
and facilitate our students’ diverse academic and educational needs. As part of the
OUGS team, he also leads our team’s communication and marketing efforts to promote
students’ academic success. Dr. Lazarides liaises and partners with other units on
campus, including the colleges, Student Affairs, IITS, and Planning and Academic Resources
on technology and communication related to the Graduation Initiative 2025.
He has served in several emergency hire roles in OUGS over the past year, most recently
as the interim Innovation & Engagement Specialist. Dr. Lazarides brings to his role
a wealth of experience with twelve years of teaching writing, language, and literature
courses in face-to-face and online environments at the University of Maryland, CSUSM,
Ashford, and Eurognosi Language Learning Center in Cyprus. Additionally, he has established
an online presence as a mobile gaming and digital technologies writer with nearly
3000 published articles. He holds degrees in Engineering and English Language and
Literature from institutions in Cyprus and a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature
from the University of Maryland.
If you have not yet met Tasos, stop by the Academic Success Center to say, “Hi.”
You are sure to find a colleague in him.
OUGS Welcomes Amanda Tomanek
We are excited to announce Ms. Amanda Tomanek as the newest addition to the Office
of Undergraduate Studies team. New this week, she joins the Writing Center Director,
Mr. Evan Smith, and a team of writing center peer educators as the Academic English
Within her previous role at Tokyo International University, she wore many hats as
a Global Teaching Fellow, from technology coordinator to curriculum developer. She
has her Masters of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
from Teachers College, Columbia University, as well as her Bachelors of Arts in History
from Witchita State.
She is looking forward to meeting students and helping them succeed in their classes!
With expertise in working with multi-lingual writers, she will be enhancing the support
the Writing Center provides for all writers, including multi-lingual writers. Faculty
is welcome to reach out to her if they have any questions about her work with students
facing challenges with Academic English.
Expect to hear more in the near future about Amanda’s new role and collaboration opportunities.
Irvine Foundation and Chatbot (Virtual Assistant) Project
Consortium: CSU, Northridge is the lead campus. CSU, San Marcos; California Polytechnic
University, Pomona; CSU, Channel Islands; Humboldt State University, CSU East Bay;
and Sonoma State University.
CSUSM Award: $137K
CSUSM and the six campuses listed above have formed a consortium with the goal of
using chatbot, or virtual assistant, technology to provide comprehensive student support
initially for incoming freshmen (with a plan for expanding in the future). With the
support of an Irvine Foundation Grant, this project will be launching in Fall 2019.
The goals of the project are to improve student outcomes, including, but not limited
to, retention, progress to degree, GPA, and social belonging.
The consortium is partnering with AdmitHub, an edtech company that has developed and successfully deployed a higher-ed focused
virtual assistant. Students will communicate with this virtual assistant through text
messaging at any time of the day. Research has shown that such virtual assistants
allow students to locate important information (for instance, financial aid deadlines
and support, advising hours, registration deadlines, and much more) faster and more
effectively than navigating multiple webpages, and we hope our virtual assistant will
do the same for our students. By answering lower order questions, the virtual assistant
frees university resources for addressing more complex and individualized requests.
This virtual assistant broadly operates in the following manner:
- Uses artificial intelligence to translate student requests (text messages) into data
- Analyzes the data to identify the information a student is requesting
- Locates that information in a constantly expanding knowledge base containing all pertinent
- Selects the appropriate pre-constructed response containing that information
- Delivers the information (including appropriate links) to the student through text
messaging using a conversational tone
If the virtual assistant cannot respond to a student's request, it forwards the request
by emailing an appropriate staff member to ensure the student receives the information
The virtual assistant also allows for proactive messaging to student populations.
These "nudges" provide information on university resources, events, deadlines, and
more. We will be sharing more information in the following weeks as the project launches.