When Strategic Axiom Mentoring founder Sam Peurifoy reached out to me about his business, I was intrigued. Tutors are a great addition to any educational journey and my daughter K-‘s math tutor has helped turn her most hated subject into one she loves (and has straight A’s in), so I get the benefit. But PhD tutors? During our conversation back and forth it became obvious that there were some pretty interesting questions to consider. The result is this Q&A…
Q: Why tutoring at all? If teachers and professors are good at their job, aren’t they going to be conveying the information in a way that students can learn?
Learning (and teaching) in large-class format is rough. We know because we’ve been on both sides of it. Teachers are absolute heroes doing the best they can to get info to students in a palatable fashion, but, at the end of the day, there’s not enough bandwidth to teach to every student’s unique learning style. Some students will get the point, others can teach themselves, but many benefit from individualized one-on-one instruction.
Q: Okay, tutors make sense. But why would a student need a tutor with a PhD? And do all of your tutors have PhDs?
Ph.D. tutors are more than just homework helpers – they’re role models and passionate ambassadors for their specific fields. For our students, we aim to go beyond just hitting the target scores, and really try to inspire a love of learning regardless of how dry the subject matter is. It’s crucial that a tutor can empathize with a student. We’ve been in your shoes. We know what sitting in those classrooms feels like. And we’re one example of what life can look like on the other side.
We see inspired students most often from our independent resume projects, which is where we take a student’s hobby or general interests and help them mold it into something that can be concretely listed as a project or skill on their applications. These projects range from coding websites to writing blogs, to starting small clothing shops online. More recently, we’ve been exploring the idea of using popular platforms like Roblox to tie in highly marketable skills like coding to contexts with which students can connect.
As for the distribution of PhDs within our organization, almost all either have a PhD or MD or are currently in a PhD or MD program. The few exceptions are mentors with specialized skillsets that don’t make sense in the context of a PhD, like digital design. For those, we look for mentors who have worked on big projects for big names, like Disney or Tiësto.
Q: Tell me a bit about your screening process. The PhD’s I’ve known have extraordinary subject matter expertise, but many of them are low on people skills and seem like they might have a hard time remembering what it’s like not to know the basics of their subject.
We love hearing this concern because we spend so much time addressing this exact problem. The stereotype is moderately true – a healthy portion of PhDs tend to be bookworms, for better or worse. Our team is hand-selected for their ability to empathize and inspire, specifically with this concern in mind. Ultimately, we believe this charisma yields superior results for students since almost everyone can recall some class they loved just because they connected well with the teacher. It’s tough to find the perfect tutor, but we’ve spent a lot of time searching so that you don’t have to.
Q: Are your tutors available for study sessions with groups? Could a graduate student hire a Strament tutor to help them through their own graduate program, not just a specific course?
We have not had group session requests, and it would likely dilute the value of the session unless the group was extremely small and the topic was very specific.
As for graduate programs, many of our tutors mentor younger graduate students and aspiring undergraduates on a daily basis. Graduate programs take a specific skillset that may not be apparent to first-years entering such programs. It is extremely important that students spend time cultivating these skills prior to starting or upon initiating a program so that they can really hit the ground running and set the pace for their future careers.
For example, academic research formulation, peer-review, & publication are unique experiences that will not be exhaustively covered in any class a student can take in a real-world fashion.
On the other hand, our tutors have extensive portfolios of highly-cited peer-reviewed academic research and have walked younger students through those processes time and time again. If that’s a student’s goal, we take immense pride in guiding new students on a path to a PhD, and absolutely have the resources to help mentor those students.
Q: One of the great challenges of tutoring is ensuring that you are teaching how to solve the student’s problems, not doing them on their behalf. How do your tutors address this challenge?
This is tough for any tutor. In the age of test answers being just a Google search away, a good education is even more important for long-term success since students will be endlessly tempted to relax and regress to a minimum effort state. Our tutors are well-trained to both detect and mitigate that behavior, partly by virtue of experience and partly by their individual passions for learning (as per the PhD’s).
We get it. Sometimes solving your eighth integral for the day on a system that looks like it has no relevance to real-life just makes you want to throw in the towel. But that’s where we come in with a bit of inspiring perspective, perhaps on how that integral might broadly relate to NASA’s rocket launches, or how a Wall Street hedge fund’s quantitative strategies use similar techniques in their volatility modeling. It’s the empathy that makes teaching stick, and it’s the inspiration that gets students out of the Googling answers loop.
Q: Switching tack just a bit, let’s say you’re a senior executive or CXO and need to gain some significant expertise in a technical, mechanical, engineering, or chemical field. Could your tutors help with one-on-one cram sessions? And they’d be 100% confidential so none of your colleagues would ever know you needed some help understanding the basics of your new field or industry?
This is also absolutely in our wheelhouse, depending on the field. We have tutors with experience at the edge of chemistry, material science, physics, and biopharma, and that list continues to grow as we find more promising mentors. All work we perform, regardless of client, is strictly confidential unless a client expressly indicates that they would like to leave a recommendation, which we do not openly solicit. CXOs in startups or around startups, particularly those with material science or biopharma exposure, may find mentorship useful to get quickly plugged into the cutting edge in the field.
Q: Alright, I’m sold. I’ve been thinking about pursuing my own PhD so if I did need assistance from a top-notch, expert tutor, how would I find and engage someone through your network?
You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a consultation. We’ll ensure that your case makes sense for our team to tackle, and we’ll set up a roadmap to set you up for future success. You can browse our publicly available tutors at our website here, but, should you not see a tutor that expressly fits your needs, we have access to a broad network of mentors from nearly every discipline that we can pull in for special requests.
Q: Finally, at such a point as I do attain a PhD, how could I contact your team to be considered as a tutor?
We love seeing new faces! Drop us a line at email@example.com with a brief description of your field of study, your personal interests and experiences, what you’re passionate about, and your resume, and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
You can learn more about Strategic Axiom Mentoring at StraMent.com if you or someone in your family seeks a top-notch tutor!