Jessica Fillmore leads a small group workshop, standing and speaking at the front of the room, students in chairs at tables shaped like a box. Screen reads Spotting Procrastination

Success coaches aid in retention; part of holistic team available to students

In increasing numbers, students are using a "low-risk" resource to help them succeed in and out of the classroom.

Student success coaches are a relatively new position within higher education. At Grand Valley, these positions are used within the Division of Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach and the Student Academic Success Center (SASC).

Mike Messner, director of student success programs, said success coaches provide students with tools and strategies to be successful, discussing issues like time management, procrastination, organization and study skills. 

"We are part of a holistic team available to help students," Messner said. "Our office complements tutoring services, the Counseling Center, Disability Support Resources, the advising offices and other partners around campus. 

"As our student population evolves, our services here become increasingly important for retention."

Last year, the SASC held 312 academic success workshops and hosted 924 appointments with students. Messner said the SASC success coaches have been added to Navigate, a software package offering students a one-stop-shop to access services.

"The Navigate Alert System allows faculty to alert us about students they have academic concerns about," he said.

Second-year graduate student Jessica Fillmore is a SASC success coach. Fillmore, who is pursuing a master's degree in higher education, said sometimes students find their way to SASC by accident.

"We always have a good conversation. Meeting with us is really a low-risk opportunity to chat with someone and gain tips and strategies on improving your approach to exams or homework," Fillmore said.

Mid-term and final exam periods are busy for the SASC. Fillmore also said it's common to meet with students who have changed their major and are interested in learning new study techniques for their new discipline.

As the pandemic halted many social opportunities, Messner said he and other success coaches sometimes fill a void for students who miss the advice and counsel that naturally occurs during athletic practices or religious meetings.

"Some students tell us they have people who they would regularly talk to but haven't seen because of COVID-19: coaches, church leaders. We are here to bounce ideas off of and troubleshoot," he said.


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