Within the Division of Undergraduate Education at the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine), there are several programs and units that students can turn to for academic help. For instance, the UCI Learning and Academic Resource Center (LARC) was established to support student academic success through proven active learning strategies, peer-to-peer collaboration, and meaningful partnerships between faculty, staff, administrators, and students across schools.

The LARC offers a variety of educational support services, including Supplemental Instruction Tutorials where students in large lecture courses can receive more personalized instruction from LARC leaders. LARC leaders are top students who receive specialized training in pedagogical theory, small group facilitation, and leadership skills. LARC leaders run tutorial sessions for courses they have taken previously and excelled in. These sessions bring together small groups of students who work with LARC leaders to improve their understanding of course material as well as their independent learning skills. 

The LARC would not be able to achieve its goals without the assistance of their dedicated team of LARC leaders who are passionate about helping their peers succeed. To recognize the positive impact that LARC leaders have not only on their fellow students but the entire UCI community, Trace Yulie, Director of the LARC, recently sat down with LARC leader Ashley Shah to learn more about her experience working with the LARC and what being part of the LARC’s mission means to her.

Trace: Hi Ashley, thank you for meeting with me and agreeing to share more about yourself and your experience as a LARC leader. To start things off, please tell us a bit about yourself and your academic life at UCI.

Ashley: Hi Trace; I’m happy to be here! To introduce myself, my name is Ashley Shah, and I am a fourth-year Neurobiology major. I will be graduating at the end of this quarter! Outside of my major, I’m involved in a lot of UCI activities and organizations. I am a LARC leader for the general chemistry series, a resident advisor in Arroyo Vista, a member of the club Student Healthcare in Practice, and a co-president of Nu Rho Psi (an honors society and club for Neuroscience). 

On a more personal note, I am from San Diego and am a Southern Californian through and through. I love being at the beach and spending time in the sun, being with friends and family, traveling, and doing anything related to art! In my free time, I also write for a local newspaper back home.

Trace: It always amazes me how much you have going on! I’m happy that you’ve found the time to be one of our awesome LARC leaders. Do you think being a LARC leader has contributed to your success?

Ashley: Coming into college, I was definitely on the shyer side. Speaking in front of a crowd was something I was not used to or felt comfortable with. However, by being a LARC leader, I got used to speaking in front of a group of about 16 people multiple times a week. As I got more comfortable with handling a group of that size, doing review sessions for LARC became a lot easier, and I eventually got used to speaking in front of almost 50 people. Learning how to confidently speak in front of a group has been incredibly useful in allowing me to take on leadership roles in my other on-campus commitments. As a resident advisor, I am in charge of a residence hall of about 80 students, and I have to conduct hall meetings and events for them. Thanks to my experience handling larger groups at LARC, doing the tasks associated with being a resident advisor did not seem as daunting, and I actually felt comfortable doing so. 

Additionally, without my experience at the LARC, I’m not sure I would have been able to take on the role of president for Nu Rho Psi. However, I’m happy to say that I have felt confident speaking in front of club members at meetings, working with faculty, and fulfilling other responsibilities as co-president, and that is all thanks to the leadership experience I gained through the LARC! All of my commitments and my roles in them have made me feel successful in my time at UCI. 

Trace: It’s great to hear that working at the LARC has had a positive impact on your college experience. What does being part of the LARC mean to you?

Ashley: When I was a first-year, all of my classes were online because of the pandemic, and I stayed home all year. Due to that experience, I felt little to no connection to the campus—I felt that there was no community or support. The only small glimpse of support I had was from the LARC leaders I worked with during my LARC tutorials. They showed me that there was support and a community waiting for me at UC Irvine. I decided I wanted to become a LARC leader so I could find my community and have the chance to provide the support and resources I didn’t have as a first-year. 

When I began my second year, I finally started living on campus and began working at the LARC. Immediately, I knew that I had found the community I was looking for. I had never felt such support and kindness in an organization. From my coworkers to the professional staff to even my students, every single person made me feel seen and included. Being a part of the LARC means having a family to go back to. The LARC is my home away from home. Oftentimes, people will ask me what my favorite part of college has been, and I can confidently say that it is the LARC. I am eternally grateful for the experiences I have had in this organization and would encourage all students to experience what the LARC has to offer. 

Visit the LARC website to learn more about student programs, services, and resources. Stay up-to-date with the latest news and events by following the LARC on Facebook and Instagram.