By MYRON LOVE Cousins Jacob Wiseman and Jonah Perlmutter appreciate that they have benefitted in adapting to university life because they had mentors in their lives to guide them.
Realizing that many other students lack the support that they had in beginning their university studies, the two University of Winnipeg students last spring founded ASE (Academic Success Education) Tutoring and Mentoring with the goal of making the transition from high school to first-year university as easy as possible.
“We understand that students may feel very frustrated and feel very overwhelmed, but we are here to help,” notes Perlmutter, a second year student in Biochemistry. “We hope to provide students with resources they can utilize to succeed both academically and socially at university. We are student-run and our staff is constantly working to make sure our clients’ experiences with us are the best it can be.”
Adds Wiseman, a third year student in Kinesiology who is originally from Vancouver, “there is even more need for what we offer in this time of pandemic. Students don’t have access to their professors the way that they used to.”
The grandsons of noted Winnipeg author Eva Wiseman and her husband, Dr. Nathan Wiseman, began developing ASE in the spring of 2019. “It took us about a year to get the ball rolling,” says Wiseman (whose parents are Dr. Sam and Natalie Wiseman). “We had to get the word out, recruit volunteers, set up the organization and incorporate as a not-for-profit.”
Wiseman points out that ASE currently has a complement of 80 volunteers including his sister, Isabel, in Vancouver, along with Perlmutter’s sister, Molly. The organization has staff and students at eight universities across the country.
“We are currently working with around 20 students and have helped another 40 or so over the past ten months,” Wiseman reports.
Through ASE’s mentoring arm, ASE aims to provide new students with insider knowledge about what to expect at university as well as guide them as to which courses they might choose to give them the best chances of success, explains Perlmutter (whose parents are Justice Shane Perlmutter and Dr. Marnie Wiseman). As for tutoring, “we try to match students with tutors who are attending the same university,” he says. “Courses often vary from university to university.”
While tutoring and mentoring sessions are naturally by necessity on Zoom, Perlmutter and Wiseman are looking forward to a post-Covid time when tutor/mentor and student will be able to meet face-to-face.
The pair’s newest addition to ASE’s portfolio is an outreach initiative to Indigenous students. Launched in mid-January, the program will be run from Manitoba and serve to offer low-bandwidth video call and phone call tutoring options to Indigenous students living on reserves where there exists disproportionately low internet connectivity.
“In addition,” says Perlmutter,” we hope to use our platform to raise awareness about the lack of resources, such as academic tutoring, offered to many Indigenous students on-reserve or within the inner city of Winnipeg. We look forward to hearing first-hand stories from members of the community and use their input to guide A.S.E.’s direction in this project.”
He notes that the project will be organized by numerous volunteers, including the latest member of the team, the coordinator of Indigenous outreach, Rachel Cogan.
Perlmutter and Wiseman are anticipating expanding their services to four more universities across Canada (including their own University of Winnipeg) by the end of the year and, eventually, expanding into the United States.
They also plan to continue to lead ASE even after they themselves graduate. “We both have an interest in education and are passionate about creating change in society,” Perlmutter says. “We intend to continue operating ASE as long as we are able to.”