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Penn State Learning honors outstanding guided study group leaders

27 May 2020

Thanks to the generosity of a former guided study group leader, Penn State Learning announced the recipients of the Outstanding Guided Study Group (GSG) Leader Award for the spring 2020 semester.

The recipients are Alexander Rowland and Joshua Adams. Each received a certificate of recognition and a stipend of $500.

The award recognizes 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 in which they review course materials and help students hone their problem-solving skills in a stimulating and challenging collaborative learning environment. Both of this semester’s recipients exemplify the award criteria. The award was funded by a previous guided study group leader.

Alex Rowland

Alexander Rowland has led physics GSGs for six semesters and functioned in the role of a GSG mentor for new mentors since Fall 2018. He had multiple nominators for this award, who all discussed his willingness to go above and beyond program expectations to help students in the best ways possible.

One nominator, Rick Robinett, professor of physics, associate department head and director of Undergraduate Studies, remarked that “Alex has excelled academically and has taken on the challenge of completing a double major with economics on top of his rigorous physics degree program. Because of his success in his GSG duties, I was very happy to be able to invite him to present to our physics First Year Seminar course (early in the fall semester) to share with our incoming prospective majors not only his experiences as a physics tutor, but also to share the many benefits of the GSG program.”

Another nominator, Neill Johnson, director of Penn State Learning, described Rowland’s efforts with challenges transitioning to an online environment this spring semester: “He asked to visit a leader who was having better luck engaging students in Zoom . . .  This kind of humility is typical of Alex. He did not mind admitting that he needed ideas and wanted to see someone else in action, even though he could potentially have mentored anyone else in the program because of his seniority and his stellar reputation.”

Rowland graduated this past spring with a double major in physics and economics.

Joshua Adams

Joshua Adams has led the Math 110 GSG for two semesters. His nominator, James Hager, associate director of Undergraduate Education in the Department of Mathematics, described Adams’ efforts as going beyond expectation.

“In addition to carrying out the requirements of the GSG position in Math 110, he has actively worked to expand the role of the position to accommodate the many complexities of engaging a large-lecture format residential mathematics class, and the current migration to a remote delivery model,” Hager said. “Even under these challenging circumstances, he continued to find mechanisms to create a welcoming environment while not compromising on the content delivery.”

Adams initiated the creation of online study groups early in the spring 2020 semester, and his efforts helped others as the entire program moved to an online platform in response to the global coronavirus outbreak. Adams is an economics major and plans to continue with GSG in the fall.

Penn State Learning leadership extended their congratulations to these outstanding GSG leaders.

Additional information about the awards process and other ways to give to Penn State Learning is available at 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 a part of Penn State 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