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reed magazine logoJune 2010

Sharpening Skills at the DoJo

Students learn from their peers at the Academic Resource Center.

By Romel Hernandez

Dojo study group

from left: Jen Byers ’13 works on physics problems with tutor Laurel Stephenson Haskins ’10, while history major Liz Monsen ’10 solves equations with tutor Greg Hoth ’10.


It is raining. Again. It is raining and cold and dark, you have had too much coffee and not enough sleep, and you have a humanities paper due on Friday. Or maybe an economics problem set, or a biology lab report. Or all three. Then, through the gloom, a warm and welcoming glow beckons you to a little house at the edge of the canyon.

Stepping inside, you find a couple dozen students working at tables scattered with notebooks, textbooks, and assorted academic detritus. In one corner, by the windows, physics students huddle together calculating electric potentials. In the next room, economics students squint at laptop screens as they argue about supply and demand. Across the hall a student writing a Hum 110 paper is pondering the meaning of nothingness in Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura.

You take a deep breath and tell yourself everything is going to be all right. You’re at the DoJo.

The Dorothy Johansen House, home of the Academic Resource Center, is where Reedies go to get help from other Reedies when they are grappling with a nettlesome paper or problem set.

“The DoJo is really a collaborative space,” says Ethan Knudson ’11, a sociology major from Iowa who works as the center’s head writing tutor. “You realize that you’re not stupid or screwing something up on your own when you don’t understand a problem, because there are a lot of other people in the same boat. You can get help here, and you can have fun, too, because everyone is hanging out at the same time they’re working.”

Last year, more than one in four Reed students visited the DoJo at least once, averaging 4.9 visits per “tutee,” as they are known in campus vernacular.

“The idea is to provide students a service that helps them not only to survive, but to flourish,” says Lily Copenagle, the associate dean of students for academic support, who helped create the center.

Many Reed students were academic stars in their high schools. Approximately seven-eighths of them graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes; 11 percent were valedictorians; and their median SAT scores were 680 math, 720 verbal, and 690 writing. They are so bright, in fact, that their brainpower may have masked deficiencies in their study skills. Sometimes they’re procrastinators or perfectionists. Sometimes their quantitative skills need shoring up, or their writing is muddled.

reed magazine logoJune 2010