Penn State Learning honors outstanding guided study group leaders

Emily Hobbs
December 11, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Thanks to the generosity of a former guided study group leader, Penn State Learning announces the recipients of the Outstanding Guided Study Group (GSG) Leader Award for the Fall 2017 academic semester. The recipients are students Alexandra Strauch and John Quinlisk. Each received a certificate of recognition and a stipend of $500.

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. Both of this semester’s recipients exemplify the award criteria, as noted in the following comments from their nominators.

Alexandra Strauch, in her fourth year at Penn State, led one of the MATH 110: Business Calculus study groups in Fall 2017. Her nominator, mathematics faculty member James Hager, noted the following: “Alex is one of the most capable GSG leaders it has been my experience to collaborate with over the past five years. She has challenged herself and students by varying the strategies of the GSG sessions (e.g. math games, puzzles, etc.), and these efforts have paid off by the large numbers of students who regularly attend her sessions. She has set up a variety of collaboration group-boards to build mechanisms for students to stay informed about the potential GSG content, and to build a sense of cohesiveness among those who regularly attend her sessions.

"Additionally, her positive attitude — week in and week out — is contagious, and I believe student confidence levels and self-efficacy are impacted in ways that are not easy to measure. In my estimation, she has redefined the position, setting the bar of excellence much higher than we have challenged our GSG leaders in the past.”

Strauch is a double major in mathematics and mathematics education. She will continue her work as a GSG leader for Penn State Learning in Spring 2018 and will complete a semester of student teaching in Fall 2018.

John Quinlisk has led the GSG for MATH 034: Mathematics of Money for three semesters. According to his nominator, mathematics faculty member Aleksey Zelenberg, “John has dedicated an enormous amount of time and energy to helping my students. His thrice-weekly review sessions are indispensable for those who don't have time and/or resources to seek help elsewhere. From my interactions with students who have been helped by John's efforts, the feedback has been uniformly positive.

"John is patient, caring, and extremely knowledgeable about robust and effective educational methods. Instead of giving away answers, he employs state-of-the-art pedagogical techniques for engaging students in discussion and critical analysis. [When John was out of town for a week,] he spent hours recording videos for my students. In these videos, he reviewed concepts, went through difficult examples, and preemptively answered common questions. It was at this point that I realized John's dedication to student education is on the level of a caring and highly competent instructor. I can think of no one better than John Quinlisk to receive this award.”

Quinlisk is a mathematics education major. He will spend the majority of the Spring 2018 semester in Pittsburgh, in a student teaching program, with his final six weeks taking place abroad in New Zealand.

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

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Last Updated December 14, 2017