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Unique tutoring program enters fourth year of helping MSE students succeed


Supporting the educational endeavors of students is an unwavering commitment of employees at The Ohio State University. This begins with welcoming prospective students, embracing first year students and challenging seniors. It’s a relentless pursuit to ensure academic success and career preparedness. Committing to the success of materials science and engineering students plays out four nights a week on the second floor of Fontana Laboratories. A prerequisite to this loyalty begins with an understanding that not all students have the same academic foundation. 

Drop-in tutoring sessions for materials science and engineering students began three years ago and are unique in the College of Engineering. Each year, teams of MSE seniors have been hand-picked to maintain regular tutoring hours during fall and spring semesters to help sophomore and junior students conquer MSE curricula. To date, 212 students have benefited from the sessions, which are offered in person or virtually without an appointment. The program initiated just prior to the pandemic and went virtual during its height. In-person and virtual options have been offered since autumn 2021. The mentors receive a modest hourly compensation for their office hours thanks to the Outreach and Diversity MSE Fund supporting diversity and outreach projects. The Department of Materials Science and Engineering’s tutoring program complements the academic coaching for core engineering courses that is offered by the College of Engineering.

Assistant Professor of Practice Jon Brown manages the drop-in tutoring program for the Department of Materials Science. Steady use of drop-in tutoring over the past three years reinforces its function as a strong inclusivity initiative. Professor Brown explained, “Having standing hours presents a lower barrier to students who may otherwise feel uncomfortable scheduling time or going to office hours, need evening hours, or who are struggling at the last minute before an assignment.”

photo of Tony Annerino, Ohio State
Tony Annerino
photo of Kayla Hepler, Ohio State
Kayla Hepler

Former mentors Tony Annerino and Kayla Hepler were a well-balanced team in their approach to MSE tutoring. “Not only did Kayla and I have very different academic interests and strengths in different areas of MSE subject matter, but the ways that we each instinctively try to think about most problems are usually different. All this came together to provide a more complete experience for students that asked us for help,” shared Tony, now an MSE graduate student at Ohio State working in the research group of Professor Perena Gouma. It’s a belief shared by Kayla, “I think Tony and I made a good team due to a difference in how we think and what we like.”

With only several college years separating them from the students visiting during tutoring sessions, Kayla, Tony and the other eight tutors related to them. Ohio State’s nationally ranked MSE program challenges students; it requires independent research and study time. Many students are juggling a job. Some are supporting a family. But the commitment to students’ success means leaning on Buckeyes’ shared values like care, compassion, respect, and inclusion. “Students needed to hear that Kayla and I have grown into much better students during our time at Ohio State. We were able to speak to students about our own experiences of figuring things out and arriving at success after not doing so well,” said Tony.

The pair tutored during their senior year in the Materials Science and Engineering Program. The topics covered in MSE 2321 Modeling and Simulation I and MSE 2241 Structure and Characterization of Materials are particularly challenging. Their content was still fresh to Tony and Kayla, who were familiar with faculty expectations based on personal experience. They understood how it felt to struggle. “Many students are often squeamish about informing their instructors that they have never learned something that the instructor assumes they already know,” recalled Tony.

Chair of the Department and MSE Professor Michael Mills says the emphasis of the department’s tutoring program is helping students who may not have a strong a background or earlier academic performance. “These tutors understand the importance of their role in using their leadership and academic experience to support the academic endeavors of fellow MSE students in an inclusive space. The program has helped countless early-stage students, and is also a rewarding experience for the senior mentors who may ultimately entertain academia as a professional career path.”

It is unlikely that two declared materials science and engineering students have exact academic backgrounds, learning styles and ambitions. Whether a student needs an alternative explanation about crystallography or a bit of affirmation before taking on a thermodynamics exam, the tutoring team is committed to enabling students’ success.

Funding from alumni and friends of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering has made this unique tutor program possible. The success of the program has inspired the department to organize a unique tutoring program for students majoring in Welding Engineering.

To help ensure students continue benefitting from this valuable tutoring program, please consider donating to the Outreach and Diversity MSE Fund supporting diversity and outreach.


Libby Culley  |  Senior Communications Specialist  |

Tag: Tutoring

Meet the MSE senior tutors

Evan Freeland Ohio State Materials Science and Engineering senior tutor autumn 2023


Interests include semiconductors and electronic materials

Jacob Shell Ohio State Department of Materials Science and Engineering Autumn 2023 tutor


Currently researching chromic effects in dielectrics for sensor and energy saving applications

Support MSE students' success
Female students in Fontana Laboratories study area Ohio State University
Outreach and Diversity MSE Fund