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John Lanyon: The Propeller Behind CMU’s Peer Tutoring Program

As I walk down the stairs of Cyert Hall to get to the Academic Development office, I cannot stop wondering how friendly this place is, and how lucky I am to have been acquainted with the staff and tutors here earlier this Spring. What a lot of people do not know about the lowest level of Cyert Hall is that this is one of the most amazing places on CMU campus; this is where all the tutoring programs, collaborative learning groups, and academic counseling are supported and arranged. The Peer Tutoring program is one of the many opportunities that Academic Development provides its students, and without John Lanyon, the Peer Tutoring Coordinator, this strong branch of academic support could not have existed.
John, a true believer of “IOA” – Improvise, Overcome, and Adapt – says that problem solving is one of the most important skills to have. As a person who loves challenges, John makes sure to use his skills to design ways to overcome obstacles and do work efficiently. Every workday at 7 a.m. John would be the first person in the office to use the peaceful environment to get a head start on some of his work, which includes replying to emails, writing recommendation letters and arranging standing appointments for students who request extra academic support. A morning person, John enjoys the quiet environment to concentrate on work and get ready for the busy day ahead.
During the day, which typically lasts from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., John interacts with staff, peer tutors and students. He conducts observations in standing appointments, has follow-up debriefing sessions with tutors and addresses issues that come up for the tutors and students. And of course, he arranges more standing appointments, which have increase in demand over the semester.
One thing John enjoys is to work with the staff in the Academic Development office. “I really enjoy working with Linda, Jessica, Dorene and Donora. They are great to work with and are always very helpful.” Throughout the day, John also resolves problems such as getting coverage for a tutoring session, dealing with no-shows to appointments and communicating with many different people to address their issues.
In the evening John sometimes observes the walk-in sessions that take place in the Engineering & Science Library and residential halls such as Mudge and Donner. “I love to observe calculus tutoring sessions, and I often find myself solving problems with the students.”
John is also a foreign language enthusiast. As an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, John was originally a math major striving to become a math teacher. However, after taking Japanese courses in college John became interested in the language and thought about doing a double major in math and Japanese. John later discarded the option, as math and Japanese hardly had any courses that overlap. He picked Japanese. How about math? “Well, the summer after freshman year I took two accelerated math courses at the University of Pittsburgh. They were not meant to be taken together, so it was hard for me. This was how math and I kind of parted.” It was not a hard decision to make, but John still appreciates the art and science of mathematics. John also studied abroad at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan during his senior year.
John has also learned Thai and a little Korean. “Three graduate students from Thailand that I worked with encouraged me to learn Thai, and it was fun!” Apart from learning foreign languages, John’s other hobbies include reading, walking and hiking. “It is beautiful in Western Pennsylvania in the fall,” John said.
A quote that John likes is from the book To Kill a Mockingbird, where Atticus Finch says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” John believes that it is important to look from other people’s perspectives to understand their views and values.
John has always known that he would be in an academic setting after he finishes his studies. “I knew I was going to do something related to education since probably elementary school. I wanted to be a teacher; it was just a matter of which subject I wanted to teach.” Working in the Academic Development office is wonderful, John said. “This is the best job. I get to interact with many people from such diverse cultural and educational backgrounds and with different life experiences. What other jobs can you get to do that and to truly make a difference?”

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