As a crucial component to the Directed Studies staff, Assistant Learning Specialists (ALS) primarily work with student-athletes who have learning differences or other academically related needs. The main goal of Directed Studies (DS) is to support, develop and prepare the student-athletes to become self-regulated learners and to facilitate continued academic success during their career at USC.Student-athletes come from all over the world to compete and earn a degree from USC. Understanding that many of them hold diverse experiences and knowledge is crucial to the role.

Some of the tasks which the ALS staff may assist student-athletes with include, but aren’t limited to: writing, reading, time management skills, organizational skills, note-taking skills and test preparation. The overall goal is to implement a routine to assist in developing student accountability and ultimately guide the student-athlete into becoming a self-regulated learner.

Who is an ALS?

The role of an Assistant Learning Specialist (ALS) is to provide academic guidance to student-athletes. The aim is to build study skills, time management, and organizational strategies, to promote self-regulated learning. You will be assigned a caseload of students who you will work with through the semester. You will be scheduled to meet them once or twice a week, based on their individualized academic support plan tailored to their academic needs/goals.

The strategies used with each student vary depending on their strengths and each session is structured differently based on the goals to be accomplished.
Sessions are used to teach students new skills through the content of their classes, such as time management, note taking, breaking down concepts etc.
Overall, an ALS is there to provide students with a range of support in order to help them be successful.

What comes with being an ALS?

  • Each ALS will work with students from diverse educational backgrounds and manage their individual academic needs.
  • Bi-weekly training sessions run by the full time staff in academics and other areas of athletics to help the ALS group gain new insight and experiences (ex. Eligibility, personal development,career development, work-life balance etc.).
  • Bi-weekly supervision meetings with full time learning specialists to discuss caseload concerns, areas of improvement, other aspects of the job and more.
  • As an ALS, you gain invaluable experience working alongside professionals in the field at one of the most prolific athletic departments in the country.

Transferable skills

  • In this role, you will gain hands on experience with many transferable skills such as:
    • Organization
    • Scheduling/Planning
    • Written and verbal communication skills
    • Collaboration/Teamwork
    • Relationship building
    • Record keeping
    • Problem-solving

2023-24 ALS Staff



Caleb: “I truly don’t know if I’d have half the success I’ve had this early on in my career if it wasn’t for my time as an ALS. In and of itself, being an ALS requires a certain type of person; SAAS is not going to hire someone who is not self-motivated, driven, organized, and extremely organized. Now that I work as a journalist, it was a pretty seamless transition to take those skills and apply them even more. My job everyday is to find stories, tell them in a way that is digestible, and also make it interesting. I work with people everyday, as we do as an ALS, and a lot of times they don’t want to talk to me, as our students can sometimes! But what makes a good ALS, and what makes a good journalist, is being able to connect with people even in the moments they don’t want to. Without my time as an ALS, I don’t think I’d be where I am now, and definitely not as prepared. Shoutout SAAS!”


Emily: “Serving as an ALS within SAAS at USC was an invaluable experience. The way in which full-time staff members support their students and work alongside their colleagues is truly admirable and unmatched. They are genuine, dedicated, collaborative, hardworking, and passionate. They are always there for support and guidance. I am now a full-time Learning Specialist and Athletic Academic Advisor at Loyola Marymount University (LMU). Much of what I learned from my experience as an ALS is incorporated into my daily practice. How I engage with students, hold them accountable, introduce learning strategies, collaborate with colleagues, and so much more, are just a few of the many ways serving as an ALS prepared me for my current role.Being an ALS truly gave me the tools and resources needed to empower young learners and help them reach their fullest potential. I would not be in the position I am today without SAAS, and I am forever grateful to have been part of the team!”


Celeste: “Being an ALS was a great experience because it exposed me to many different areas of Student-Athlete Support Services and made me passionate about supporting student-athletes athletically, academically, and personally. After I left USC, I had a solid foundation for other roles, and felt comfortable as I took on more duties as an Academic Advisor. The best skill I took away from my time as an ALS was the ability to develop individualized relationships with students and helping them set both personal and academic goals. In my current position as Student-Athlete Development Coordinator at Stanford, I spend a lot of time working with students on maximizing their college experience and creating both short- and long-term goals. While my skills have become better in each job, I can say that being an ALS, was one of the most beneficial learning experiences I have had thus far in my career.”


Brandy: “Being an assistant learning specialist is such a rewarding role that allows you to see your students grow throughout the semester and school year. Additionally, being an ALS allows you to grow your own skills. I gained valuable skills and further developed the skills I already had. I grew within my communication skills, collaboration, organizational skills, and instructional design skills. These skills have all translated to multiple aspects of my life such as my personal and professional growth. This grad assistantship made me realize one of my passions: college athletics and student-athletes. I was also able to connect and network with professionals who work within college athletics. My connections allowed me to be better equipped for job interviews and informational interviews. These connections assisted me in getting my first post-graduation job and jump starting my career. My advice to future ALS’s would be to connect with learning specialists and tenured staff. It can be intimidating to talk to someone who has been in their role a long time, while you are just beginning. But the support you get as an ALS in the John McKay Center is like no other.”

Jobs obtained by former Assistant Learning Specialists post-graduation

  • College Athletics:
    • Learning Specialist
    • Academic Counselor
    • Compliance Associate
    • Student-Athlete Development Coordinator
  • Higher education outside of athletics:
    • Academic Advisor
    • Student Programs Advisors
    • Admissions
  • K-12
    • Resources Specialist
    • Student Support Teacher
    • High school teacher
  • Non-academics
    • News Anchor
    • Biostatistician


Marisa Samaniego
Assistant Director of Athletic Academic Support, Senior Learning Specialist
(213) 716-3701

Kimberly Olson
Learning Specialist
(213) 716-0961

Application Process

Submit a Cover letter, resume, academic transcripts, writing sample, and one letter of reference (Review of applications is ongoing).

Questions and/or materials should be sent to:
Marisa Samaniego
email: msamanie@usc.edu

Application materials are reviewed, and qualified applicants will be contacted for an interview. References are required and will be contacted for applicants who meet the qualifications and would make a good addition to the Directed Studies staff.

Click here for the ALS Position Description PDF