As-U-R offers assistance to students with executive function challenges


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

A student-support program at Appalachian State University called As-U-R helps students who have a hard time adjusting to the more strenuous college coursework and who have been identified as having executive function challenges.

The grant-funded program originated from a similar program at East Carolina University, which later spread to Fayetteville State University, UNC Greensboro and Appalachian.

Rose Matuszny, the project director at Appalachian for As-U-R, stressed that having executive function challenges does not necessarily mean having learning differences.

“Having executive function challenges doesn’t mean somebody has a disability,” Matuszny said. “Oftentimes, they’ve just never learned some of the skills that other students have.”

As-U-R provides assistance to students in a number of ways, including providing a quiet study space for students to work, offering weekly seminars on various topics and providing a large amount of web resources students can access at any time.

The seminars cover a wide range of topics, from test-taking strategies, to tips on skimming texts and strategies for writing papers.

“The seminars are on anything you’d need to know to be successful in college,” Matuszny said.

The students in the As-U-R program are broken up into three tiers, based on how much assistance they require. Students in the first tier are just made aware of the online resources available to them. Tier two students can take advantage of the quiet study hall. Tier three students can attend the seminars.

“Tier three is just a little bit of extra help,” said Daniel Byrd, Appalachian’s director of student support for As-U-R. “But if you don’t need that, you can be a tier two student and just come into [the study room] whenever you need it and want to get help.”

The size of the program has grown exponentially in recent semesters. In the fall 2014 semester they served five students; this spring they are serving 15 students.

Byrd said he would like to see the number of students in the program grow even more.

“There are plenty of students here at App State who could benefit from the skills we help with,” Byrd said.

Most of the help is being provided by paid graduate assistants who work in the study hall as well as the seminars.

As-U-R has also been holding workshops for professors to instruct them how to teach using a method called universal teaching, which involves using a large number of teaching approaches to make sure every student is being catered to. These different approaches include lectures, class discussions and in-class projects.

“The general idea behind [universal teaching] is to create a classroom environment where students are active participants rather than just passive listeners,” Byrd said.

Ultimately, Matuszny said, the benefit of the As-U-R program is that it gives all students an opportunity to shine and live to their potential.

“Many great artists and thinkers through history have had diversities, even Steve Jobs,” Matuszny said. “We don’t want to miss out on these people who could help our whole world.”

STORY: Tommy Culkin, News Reporter