Our members are our greatest asset at ACTP, and we love to highlight the work that they do and the resources they are proud of on a weekly basis. On ACTP Thursdays, we shine the spotlight on a member of the week, a resource of the week, or a best practice of the week. We’re a community of learning. We work best when we share our passions and practices.
Today, we bring you the work of Debbie Malewicki — a longstanding ACTP Member who has previously presented at ACTP’s annual conferences and whose department won the 2016 ACTP Program of Excellence Award! For nearly a decade, Debbie served as the Director of the Center for Learning Resources and the Peer Tutoring Program at the University of New Haven. Under her guidance, the center was tremendously successful. Today, Debbie is the President of Integrity 1st Learning Support Solutions, LLC — a company she started in March 2018 to assist practitioners and students in higher education. In the fall of 2019, Debbie will officially have under her belt 30 years of experience in the world of learning support!
ACTP: What drove you to the field of academic support and coaching?
Debbie: I found myself as an undergraduate being approached by classmates who wanted more personalized and deeper explanations than faculty could give in the classroom. These discussions felt comfortable to me. Later I was recruited by the head of the new writing center at my undergraduate institution. Somehow, a position in tutoring kept presenting itself as I pursued my graduate work, began teaching English, and so forth.
ACTP: What’s one piece of advice you would give to your colleagues?
Debbie: My advice would be to remember that we’re not alone. For too many years, I operated in a vacuum because I wasn’t aware of all the wonderful resources that are available in our community. Whether you’re looking for our assistance, attending a local or national conference, or just reading newsletters or the LRNASST list-serv, take the opportunity to talk with your colleagues, share your ideas, and ask questions. There’s so much that you can learn.
ACTP: In 2018, you decided to make the jump from being a successful learning center director to starting your own company, Integrity 1st Learning Support Solutions, LLC. Tell us more about this resource you are providing to our community.
Debbie: Integrity 1st Learning Support Solutions is designed to assist higher education students and professionals with their tutoring and testing needs. We are helping students who are taking classes and providing support for courses for which the schools may not be able to fill the need due to budgetary constraints. We also provide personalized opportunities to review material under the supervision of a qualified tutor.
In relation to professionals, we want to be a more direct means of helping people already out in the working world move up or transition to a new field, which may mean helping them improve their writing and communication skills, brushing up on a certain type of math, or even assisting with developing an improved means of customer service for a company.
ACTP: How does your previous experience leading a highly successful center at the University of New Haven inform your work as President of Integrity 1st Learning Support Solutions, LLC?
Debbie: Because I have spent almost 30 years in the field, I’ve received the opportunity to work in almost every position that is a part of a higher education tutoring center. This experience lets me see how a learning center operates from a variety of perspectives. In my last position at the University of New Haven, I served as Director of the Center for Learning Resources (CLR) for just over nine years. We were the 2016 recipients of the ACTP Program of Excellence Award. As director, in my first 4 years, we were able to increase department utilization levels by over 500%. From when I entered the position to when I left, the department grew from 32 staff serving 15-20% of the student population (4,000 visits annually) to 76 staff supporting over 50% of our population and more than 24,000 visits annually at our peak. We also grew from four divisions on one campus to 11 divisions spread across four campuses. Coming into the directorship of the Center for Learning Resources was a crash course in higher education administrative expectations and protocols. Even though I had worked in the field for a couple of decades, I wasn’t accustomed to all of the policies, paperwork, and the intricacies that come with running a higher education department. I was able to draw from a variety of professional experiences in order to position our department and market it.
In starting Integrity 1st, one of the most important components is our consulting service to assist other higher education professionals who are making the transition to administrative roles for the first time or to help more experienced people who are looking to grow their department through increased utilization levels, more visibility on campus, and establishing partnerships with their colleagues. It’s been my experience that the biggest issue many learning center administrators experience is how they communicate their services to people across the university so that students feel comfortable using the services and faculty/administrators are comfortable recommending the services to the students. One of the ways Integrity 1st consulting services can assist is in identifying the kinds of audiences you want to reach and working with you to craft the messages specific to those audiences. We can also assist in developing tracking systems and the internal paperwork that you need to effectively run a department from a business perspective.
ACTP: What’s a fun fact about yourself (not related to tutoring or coaching)?
Debbie: I love traveling. Cruises are my favorite. We’re waiting a few more years until my son is old enough to remember and experience a trip to Japan, which is part of his heritage.
Are you interested in being highlighted on the ACTP Blog? Simply contact Jen Nguyen, PR Board Member, at [email protected]. All that’s required to become ACTP famous is a quick phone conversation. We’re looking forward to talking to you!