Part of an Exciting Team: A Student Perspective

What better way to reinforce learning than to teach others? Nick Versaci, a second-year student majoring in English and statistics, is using what he learned in the general education cluster course “Evolution of the Cosmos and Life” to help freshmen explore everything from the emergence of the universe to the development of life on Earth. Year-long cluster courses strengthen the intellectual skills of first-year students, introduce them to faculty research work, and expose them to seminars and interdisciplinary study. Currently in its pilot phase, the UCLA Library’s embedded peer inquiry specialist initiative involves collaboration with the Division of Undergraduate Education and the instructors who teach the courses.

Q: Who are embedded peer inquiry specialists, and what do you do?

A: We’re students who have already taken a cluster class and now serve as peer advisors and assistants to students and staff in that cluster. We teach research techniques to assist students with papers and projects. We attend lectures and help students get the most out of the class, the Library system and UCLA in general.

Q: How did you become involved?

A: I was lucky to be recruited for this position by Tony Friscia, the coordinator for this cluster. When Danielle Salomon, interim head of Powell Library, explained the program to me, I was immediately excited to work with a wonderful library team and one of the best classes I’ve ever taken!

Q: What have you gained from this job?

A: Most importantly, I’ve learned more about the give and take of tutoring: listening actively to students’ needs, guiding them with questions instead of “lecturing,” and figuring out how to condense and clarify concepts. I’ve also gained communication skills and work experience by coordinating with the cluster staff and students or leading library tours with (usually tired) groups of freshmen.

Q: Which is your favorite UCLA Library and why?

A: My favorite is Powell. While I spend a lot of time in the Research Library, Powell’s architecture and spatial attractiveness appeal to me; the building feels very collegiate. I also love working in its Inquiry Labs!

Q: It sounds like you really like libraries!

A: I’ve always been fond of libraries. As a K-12 student I’d search through the shelves for the next story to immerse myself in and read through the lunch period, and I enjoyed helping my mom run her middle school library. I continue to spend my spare time at UCLA’s libraries working on homework or reading. After taking this job, it’s become clear to me that the UCLA libraries are integral and meaningful to students’ success at UCLA and beyond!