Tutoring strengthens ties, enhances educational experiences for learners
A group of learners is paying forward the lessons and support they received to their underclass colleagues.
The School of Dentistry maintains a robust tutoring program, with 50 learners employed as teaching assistants, individual tutors and pre-clinical lab tutors. These tutors provide support to first- and second-year learners by reviewing concepts taught in class, assisting with lab work and answering whatever other questions learners may have.
“Overall, we serve as primary points of contact for students with questions, needing assistance in the lab or looking for advice about how to navigate dental school,” explained Carson Dennis, DDS ’24.
Several tutors decided to pursue the role based on their own positive experience learning from classmates themselves. “I found tutoring services to be absolutely vital in my success throughout my classes,” explained Kaitlyn Niemann, MDT ’24. “I decided to become a tutor based on my own personal experiences.”
These learners experienced the benefits of excellent tutors first-hand and realized they could be part of paying it forward. “It was reassuring to have help from someone who had been in my shoes recently and could resonate with how challenging and overwhelming it can be to first translate concepts from two to three dimensions,” said Euphrosyne Daoutidou, DDS ’25. “The tutoring feedback helped my skill development, but also gave me perspective on the dental journey.”
Similarly, Cole Johnson, DDS ’24, hoped he could “help the upcoming underclassmen with the same struggles that I faced. In dental school, you have so much information to learn in such a short time, that when you hit roadblocks, it can be stressful. It means a lot knowing that I can help students gain a better understanding of the material they may be struggling with.”
This year’s tutors look forward to making a difference and supporting fellow learners and helping them find their confidence. “Because dental school is a professional school, sometimes it feels like we have to be professionals at everything—if we need help, we don’t know how to ask,” explained Abdirahman Askar, DDS ’25, “By being a tutor, I can encourage people to learn that it’s okay to ask for help.”
Dennis recognized the “tremendous impact mentors have had on my life throughout the years,” and “knew I’d jump at the opportunity to do the same for others if I could.”
Some tutors have fallen in love not only with helping their classmates, but also with education. “Part of the reason I chose dentistry was the ability to educate my patients and community about the value of oral health,” explained Askar. “Being a tutor, I felt like I could provide that to other students, too.”
And over time, these learners have found that tutoring actually benefits them, too. “Since becoming a tutor, I have met so many incredible people—and I have gained deeper knowledge in these concepts as well,” said Niemann. “It has helped me understand the material better than I originally thought I did. This is especially helpful when I’m studying for boards!”
Askar agrees. “The way that I study is by teaching,” he explained. “If I can teach things to others, it means I really understand them. This helps me keep the material fresh.”
Most of all, the tutoring experience provides for a great relationship between classes, fosters growth and enhances the learning environment for everyone.
“It feels great to be able to establish rapport and help students build trust in themselves,” explained Preet Kanwal Dhaliwal, DDS ’24. “I have realized students generally do better than they think. I feel a sense of responsibility in helping them with the curriculum, and it’s a win-win when they get things right.”
For Daoutidou, “it feels like coming full circle as the proper way to close my chapter as a preclinical student. Knowing you have someone in your corner can ease the stress; leaning on each other helps give the energy to push through. So I see it as supporting colleagues, in this together, from pre-clinic to clinic and the world outside of Moos Tower.”
And each day, as tutors teach what they learned from the classes that came before them, the next generation of oral health professionals grows stronger, more confident and more prepared for that world.