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Penn State Learning honors outstanding Guided Study Group leaders

24 May 2021

Penn State Learning has announced the recipients of the Outstanding Guided Study Group Leader Award for the spring 2021 semester. The recipients are Makayla Ashe and Mardy Sarnoff. 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 their assigned course. Working closely with course instructors and routinely attending class sessions, study group leaders host drop-in study sessions online in which they review course materials and help students hone their problem-solving skills in a stimulating, challenging and collaborative learning environment. Both of this semester’s recipients exemplify the award criteria, as noted in the following comments from their nominators.

Makayla Ashe

Ashe has led statistics guided study groups (GSGs) for six semesters, most recently for STAT 200. She had multiple nominators for this award, and all described her willingness to go above and beyond program expectations for the benefit of students. Jenny Shook, teaching lecturer of statistics, described Ashe's ability to work with “potentially derailing situations, like hosting an exam review at the same time as her normal sessions.” Shook continued: “This caused [confusion] but Makayla rose to the challenge, managing two Zoom rooms at the same time while running the review session!” Brendaly Drayton, scholar in residence for learning communities at Penn State Learning, lauded Ashe's “whole group collaborative practices that promoted student participation,” adding that Ashe “has consistently demonstrated care for the students and a commitment to their academic success.” Ashe graduated this spring with a bachelor of science degree in statistics and plans to attend law school in the fall.

Mardy Sarnoff

Sarnoff has shown exemplary leadership in her two semesters with GSG as a leader for Physics 250. Michael Smitka, assistant teaching professor of physics and one of Sarnoff's nominators, described physics students’ appreciation of Sarnoff's GSG sessions: “Mardy's GSG sessions were the most valuable learning tool available to them.” She often went above and beyond in her preparation of material for the students, as GSG math coordinator Michelle Rist explained, using creative ways to engage students online and establish “an interactive and supportive learning environment.” Sarnoff graduated this spring with a bachelor of science in immunology and infectious disease.

Additional information about the awards process and GSGs is available on Penn State Learning's website. 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 the Penn State Office of 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