City College professors and tutors help from a distance

Tutoring services continue for City College students through the summer term


Sonny Garibay

Dr. Rob Rubalcaba hosts MathJam for Spring 2020 finals on Zoom. Screenshot by Sonny Garibay

Sonny Garibay, Editor-at-Large

Math professor Dr. Rob Rubalcaba has gained a reputation at San Diego City College for being a professor who is willing to go the extra mile to help his students succeed.

When the coronavirus presented additional challenges to students and faculty alike, Rubalcaba took the opportunity to do more, even when it meant helping students well past his office hours or on Saturdays.

“It’s hard,” Rubalcaba said. “(My class) is always in close quarters.”

Dr. Rob Rubalcaba hosts UMOJA Jam from his home.
Dr. Rob hosts UMOJA Jam from his home. (Photo courtesy of Rob Rubalcaba)

The professor wants to instill a sense of closeness between himself and his students, as well as between the students and each other. This is made more difficult through distance learning but not impossible, since he has the help of some friends.

Most recently he worked with the students of UMOJA to bring a bit of normalcy to San Diego City College students preparing for finals when they presented a virtual study “Jam” on May 27.

Missed Math Jam? Access online tutoring services available to City College students here.

“MathJams” is a regular event at City College, allowing students to meet and interact in a casual environment with music and food before breaking off into separate groups to study with the help of tutors and teachers. Rubalcaba usually plays the role of deejay.

Over a dozen tutors logged in to help with the online version of the event, which was much more help than was ultimately needed.

Rubalcaba believes the Jam approach used by UMOJA can be more helpful than traditional tutoring services for some students.

“When you go into a … tutoring center, it doesn’t look very fun most of the time,” he said.

Said UMOJA coordinator Dr. Erin Charlens: “This is really unique what we’re doing. There isn’t anything like this on our campus.”

The virtual Jam was conducted over Zoom with Rubalcaba and Charlens sharing hosting duties.

Keeping with the informal theme of the event, Rubalcaba used the Zoom background feature to place a still image of comedian Dave Chappelle as Rapper Lil’ Jon in a scene from Chappelle Show behind him.

Interested students were given access to the Zoom meeting, where they could catch up with friends before being sent to smaller groups with tutors for help in most math classes as well as other subjects.

A screenshot of Dr. Rob Rubalcaba with a whiteboard, helping a student with their math on zoom.
Dr. Rob Rubalcaba helps a student work through a math problem during study Jam. Screenshot by Sonny Garibay (Sonny Garibay)

There were a few breakthroughs during the event as students, who were stressed about the material they were studying, came out of tutoring sessions feeling confident and prepared after getting support from peers.

“We can suffer through math together,” said Dalston J. Karto, a City College student in attendance.

Karto was thankful to get the opportunity to work on “very difficult problems with very smart people.”

Classmate Ruben Hernandez agreed.

“It’s good to know there’s a group of teachers that come together to put something together like this,” Hernandez said.

“We’re really intentional about taking time to talk about why we’re here,” Charlens added. “We use the word love all the time in terms of the work that we do and I think that’s why we’re unique.”

Rubalcaba stayed online until 11:30 p.m. helping students after the Jam. Despite this, he defers credit to the UMOJA club for bringing the group together.