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reed magazine logoJune 2010

Sharpening Skills at the DoJo continued

The DoJo is really part of a broader effort Reed is making to support students—not just as scholars, but as human beings—along with other major enhancements to residence life, health and counseling, and student activities. That new approach is in evidence across campus—from the new dorms, to the better food in Commons, to Gray Fund trips, to cultural and sports events, to nature hikes in the great outdoors.

Reed has moved beyond the “sink or swim” ethos of yesteryear, says Mike Brody, vice president and dean of student services. “Reed has always been defined to a great extent by its academic rigor, and I don’t hear anyone saying they think that will or should change,” he says. “We just want to make sure that students have at their disposal the most effective support resources possible, so that they can make the most of their Reed experience.”

It’s hard to establish a causal link, but Reed’s six-year graduation rate currently stands at 78 percent, a dramatic improvement over previous decades (20 years ago, the rate was 58 percent) that Brody attributes in part to better support. “The high student attrition of the past was woven into the fabric of this place. There seemed to be an assumption that because Reed is not for everyone, many of the students who matriculated at Reed just wouldn’t graduate from here,” Brody says. “And while it remains true that Reed isn’t for everybody, students who might have really struggled and even failed without substantial support are now quite willing to ask for help. I think we have begun to embrace the culture of academic support at Reed, and that’s a very positive development.”

“We had to make do back in the day because academic support was so threadbare,” Professor Glasfeld says. “We frustrated a lot of very talented students by not giving them the resources they needed.” The DoJo, he adds, “is an answer to that.”

By improving retention, Reed also hopes to improve diversity. Some of the students who struggle academically, especially in their first few months at Reed, may be the first in their families to attend college, or may have attended high schools that didn’t prepare them for a college that takes great pride in its intellectual rigor. The DoJo helps them to thrive.

Many students, however, don’t visit the center because they are struggling. Quite the opposite. They go because they are driven to excel. Those students—many of them regulars at the center—find that the one-on-one sessions with peers help them think more clearly, argue more persuasively, and prepare them to engage more meaningfully with classmates and professors. They don’t have hang-ups about going to the DoJo.

English major Marvin Bernardo ’12 immigrated to Los Angeles from his native Philippines in the 9th grade, so English is his second language. Although he admits he felt “a little embarrassment” when he first went to the DoJo, he now makes a point of regularly visiting writing tutors when he is putting together a paper. “I use them for brainstorming and for making sure my grammar is perfect and my arguments are clear,” he says.

The first member of his immediate family to attend college, Marvin is motivated by his own desire to do well at Reed. “It’s an extra thing I feel I must do,” he says. “I have high standards for myself and my work.”

reed magazine logoJune 2010