Kiran Rampersad is the first Georgia Tech student to be awarded the prestigious Southeastern Writing Center Association Undergraduate Peer Tutor of the Year award. He will accept the award in February 2016 at SWCA’s annual conference in Columbus, GA.
“Kiran is an exceptional tutor who has fully committed himself to our center, even though it is not a place he ever expected to be as an industrial and systems engineering student at Georgia Tech. His systems engineering background is one of his greatest assets, and not just for the content knowledge he brings to his tutoring sessions with other engineering students,” said Karen J. Head, who is the Communication Center’s director and an assistant professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication.
“Kiran is also one of our most popular tutors. Without question this is a reaction to his congenial disposition and his competence as a tutor. Students who have worked with Kiran are quick to say how much he has encouraged and helped them — even the graduate students who sometimes bristle when they learn their tutor is an undergraduate take the time to say how glad they are to have worked with him.”
In this interview, Rampersad talks about his work as a peer tutor, and how his industrial engineering focus helps with that role, his involvement with the Caribbean Students Association, and how it felt to win the SWCA award.
Why did you select Georgia Tech for your university experience, and industrial engineering as your major?
Georgia Tech is one of the most prominent universities for engineering. I am from the beautiful twin-island republic of Trinidad & Tobago, where I have lived all my life. I never envisioned myself studying abroad, but here I am!
The school’s close proximity to the bustling city of Atlanta creates the ideal setting for me to meet new people and have exciting experiences. Above all, Georgia Tech’s Industrial and Systems Engineering program is ranked No. 1 in the U.S.
I chose IE because it is such a versatile field. An IE graduate can find a job in almost any industry, from manufacturing to insurance. I have always loved math and finance, so my focus is on economic and financial systems. I am also pursuing a minor in economics, which complements my IE concentration.
What made you want to become an undergraduate peer tutor at the Communication Center?
Prior to attending Georgia Tech, I tutored high school students and volunteered to teach kids at an underprivileged children’s home in Trinidad. After doing both activities for a year, I grew to love tutoring and helping my peers. I was nominated to work at the Georgia Tech Communication Center by my English professor, Dr. Rebecca Weaver, from whom I took both English 1101 and 1102. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to help my fellow students and to positively contribute to the Georgia Tech community.
What is your favorite part of the experience of being a peer tutor?
I see peer tutoring as a two-way street: Students get help and guidance on their projects, while tutors learn both from the students they help and from the activity of tutoring itself. For me, that is the best part of being a peer tutor. Another wonderful part of this experience is receiving gratitude from students you have helped and seeing them reach their goals and be successful.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a peer tutor?
At the Communication Center, we tutor both graduate and undergraduate students in any writing- and communication-based projects. Thus, I have worked with students on academic essays, research papers, dissertations, resumes, cover letters, mock job interviews, presentations, poster design, and public speaking. The challenge is to be versed and knowledgeable in all areas, so as to adequately guide students with any one of those various projects.
I know you’re involved in other campus organizations, such as being vice president of the Caribbean Students Association. Describe your role there.
I have been heavily involved with the Caribbean Students Association (CaribSA) since I was a freshman. During my first two years at Georgia Tech, I served as treasurer, and now I am the vice president. CaribSA’s two primary roles are to provide a space where Caribbean students can meet, socialize, and network, and to promote our diverse and unique Caribbean culture on Georgia Tech’s campus through food, music, history, and art. As the vice president, I oversee all of the organization’s activities and domestic affairs. These include general weekly meetings, as well as cultural events and social gatherings that we host. I work closely with other student-run clubs and on-campus departments to promote our activities.
Describe a typical day for you. How do you find time for everything?
A typical day for me involves waking up early, attending all of my classes, meeting groups to work on projects for classes or having CaribSA meetings, tutoring at the Communication Center, completing all of my assigned homework, studying for upcoming exams and quizzes, going to the gym at night, and ensuring that I get an adequate amount of sleep.
I usually schedule everything in my head a day in advance for the following day’s activities, and try to stick to that plan. However, it is extremely tough to balance my time among my five classes, working at the Comm Lab, and serving in CaribSA. It’s almost like two full-time jobs.
How did you feel when you heard that you had received the Southeastern Writing Center Association Undergraduate Peer Tutor of the Year award?
I felt like all of my hard work over the past year and a half had paid off. I was particularly excited because I am the first Georgia Tech student to win this prestigious award. I will also be co-presenting at the 2016 SWCA Annual Conference with Peter Fontaine, the associate director of our center.
How do your IE studies help you in your tutoring role?
IE has helped me in terms of analyzing students’ work and organizing my sessions effectively to help my tutees. Since I do a lot of analysis in my IE classes, I am better able to examine a paper or project and give meaningful feedback and useful suggestions.
What does the future look like for you?
I would like to go back home after I graduate and work to improve some system(s) in Trinidad. Moreover, since I enjoy both tutoring and IE, I wouldn’t mind teaching industrial engineering, given the opportunity.
Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering