Penn State Learning honors outstanding guided study group leaders with award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Thanks to the generosity of a former peer leader, Penn State Learning has selected its first group of Outstanding Guided Study Group Leader Award recipients for the 2015-16 academic year. The inaugural recipients, each provided a stipend of $500, are Ryan Creedon, Natalie Morrissey, Jeff Ross, and Nicole Williamson.

The purpose of the award is to recognize study group leaders’ commitment to creating and sustaining a welcoming and academically supportive learning community for the course to which they are assigned. Working closely with course instructors and routinely attending class sessions, study group leaders host drop-in study sessions in which they review course materials and help students hone their problem-solving skills in a stimulating and challenging collaborative learning environment.

Creedon, who for three semesters led the MATH 140: Calculus and Analytic Geometry guided study group, “was incredibly dedicated to working with students and was very patient,” said his nominator, Andrew Baxter, lecturer in mathematics. “He was very effective as well. He knew the material inside and out, and could anticipate and respond to students' difficulties,” Baxter continued.

Creedon graduated this spring with honors from the Schreyer Honors College, bachelor's and master's degrees in meteorology, and a minor in mathematics. In the fall, he will begin work on his doctorate in applied mathematics at the University of Washington.

Morrisey, who has led the study group for CHEM 210: Organic Chemistry for two semesters, “helped our students tremendously. Her sessions and pre-exam reviews attracted upwards of 200 students per session,” according to Pshemak Maslak, associate professor of chemistry. “Many students find CHEM 210 to be one of the most challenging courses they take at Penn State. Students have access to TAs and instructor office hours, learning assistant sessions, pre-exam reviews, chemistry Resource-Room tutoring, the ANGEL discussion forum, and of course, guided study group sessions. Natalie's sessions were so good that they routinely ‘outcompeted’ all other help sessions,” said Maslak.

Morrisey is a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering and a member of the Schreyer Honors College.

Ross, who led the Math 110: Business Calculus study group for six semesters, “has been a significant part of the overall success of the MATH 110 course transition to a large-lecture instruction format,” said his nominator, James Hager, senior lecturer and assistant director for undergraduate education in the Eberly College of Science and Penn State Learning scholar in residence, math learning communities. “Students consistently rated the guided study group program, and in particular Jeff, as an important part of their own success stories. In addition to administering weekly help sessions and conducting exam reviews, Jeff supported classroom clicker discussions, participated in student Piazza collaboration board discussions, and mentored newly selected study group leaders,” said Hager.

Ross is a senior who will graduate in December 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in finance and a minor in French. After doing an internship at Morgan Stanley in New York this summer, he will be studying abroad in Paris this fall completing his French minor.

For two semesters, Williamson has served as “the guided study group leader for both MATH 200 and MATH 201, meaning she had to attend twice the lectures, prepped more sessions, and conducted more exam reviews than other group leaders,” said Mary Anne Stark, supervisor of the guided study group leaders. “Nikki spent hours every week preparing for her sessions and finding creative and hands-on methods to engage students. She understands how to pull the best efforts out of people in such a way that they feel proud and are left wanting to keep working instead of feeling drained and exhausted. She is a powerful asset to the guided study group program and the Penn State community,” said Stark.

Williamson is a sophomore majoring in biobehavioral health.

Additional information about the awards process and other ways to give to Penn State Learning are available at In addition to providing no-charge guided study groups supporting a wide range of courses, Penn State Learning also provides tutoring in mathematics, world languages, public speaking, and writing.

Penn State Learning is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

Last Updated May 31, 2016