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Academic Support and Student Disability Services

A. Learning Resources and Student Academic Mentors (SAMs)

Student Academic Mentors (SAMs) are upper-class students specially selected and trained to help students develop and sustain effective learning skills. Each SAM is assigned to a residential hall, and mentors a small number of students individually. SAMs also offer workshops throughout the year on academic skills; these workshops are open to all students. SAMs provide specific information on time management, reading, note-taking, test-taking, course selection, and accessing resources as well as encouragement and general advice. First-year students in particular are urged to work with a mentor, but any upper-class student may request a SAM as well. SAMs are available for informal or emergency consultation at any time to any student. The SAM program is supervised by Melissa Mandos, Fellowships and Prizes Advisor.

Contact: Melissa Mandos, or x8363.

B. Writing Center; Writing Associates (WAs); Speaking Associates (SPAs)

The Writing and Speaking Associates Program provides academic collaborators for Swarthmore students. Writing Associates (WAs) and Speaking Associates (SPAs) operate not as tutors but as collaborating readers, writers, speakers, and listeners. They work closely with students across the disciplines through the Course WA Program and the Writing Center, helping their peers discover more effective ways of communicating. The WA Program also offers individual mentoring through the Writing Associates Mentor (WAM) program, workshops, write-ins, and other events throughout the year. For further information, check out the Writing Program website.

C. Student Disability Services

The Office of Student Disability Services advises students about the College's policy, procedures and resources. It oversees College compliance with agreed upon, reasonable accommodations and assists in the day-to-day provision of supports and accommodations for the academic needs of individual students.

A person with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. An eligible student is one who otherwise meets the academic and technical standards necessary for admission into a program or participation in a course.

Reasonable accommodations refer to modifications necessary to provide equal access to college programs and activities for students with disabilities. An accommodation is not deemed reasonable if it fundamentally alters an essential element of an academic standard or program. Reasonable accommodations may include elimination of physical barriers, when possible, as well as the following academic accommodations when appropriate: calculator use, audio recorder/note-taker, extended time on in-class exams, computer use, assistive technology, audiobooks.

Any student needing accommodations for a disability should contact the Office of Student Disability Services, located in Parrish 113 and 123 West, or e-mail to set up an appointment to discuss needs and the process for requesting accommodations. The Office is responsible for reviewing and approving disability-related accommodation requests and, as appropriate, will issue students with documented disabilities an Accommodation Authorization Letter. Since accommodations may require early planning and are not retroactive, students should contact the Office as soon as possible. Monica Vance, Director of Student Disability Services, is happy to answer any questions that arise. For details about Student Disabilities Services and the accommodations process, visit the Student Disability Service Website (see especially the resource section "For Faculty and Staff").

The Office also works individually with any student who needs extra support. It works intensively to help those students better understand the processes and practicalities of learning in our college environment.

D. Workshops

The Office of Academic Success offers a range of workshops to students about time management, addressing procrastination, studying sciences in college, participating in classes, and reading in college. Look for the schedule online, or contact Dean Liz Derickson at for more information.

E. Study Group Meetings and Departmental Clinics

Seven departments, mostly in the Natural Sciences, offer peer-led sessions designed to facilitate collaborative interactions around homework and course content. These sessions provide an opportunity for any student enrolled in introductory (and some intermediate-level) courses to get help with homework and to work actively with peers.

The help sessions are staffed by students (“peer assistants”) who are comfortable with the course material and trained in STEM pedagogy. Sessions for a given course are typically offered on several evenings each week.  Detailed information about these sessions is disseminated via the introductory courses themselves.

The peer assistants associated with a given course often play a supportive role during the course lecture periods as well, helping to facilitate in-class discussion.

For further information about NSE peer assistants generally, or about the pedagogy training offered to new NSE peer assistants, please contact the Coordinator of NSE Educational Support Initiatives, Prof. Ben Geller (

For further information about individual departmental help sessions (and the peer assistants in each department), please contact:

F. Tutors

Through the Dean's Office, individual tutors are available to students in almost all disciplines, at no cost to the student. Students should use clinics, when available, before seeking an individual tutor; students should also consult the course instructor before asking for a tutor. Mira Baric (x8367), administrative assistant to Dean of Students Tomoko Sakomura, coordinates tutoring assistance. She will enlist the faculty's help in generating a list of students who are available for individual tutoring needs. Contact: Mira Baric, or x8367.

G. When Advisees Need More Help

In the course of advising, you may realize that your advisee needs more help, academic or otherwise, than you are in a position to provide. In that case, we urge you to bring the matter to the attention of someone connected with the Dean's Office. In some cases contact with Worth Health Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, or Public Safety may be appropriate. A member of the Dean's Office can help advise you about available resources on (and off) campus. Please also see Faculty Concerns FAQs and a diagram of Dean of Students Division Resources [pdf] for more information.