Success coaches help students navigate their way to graduation

September 6, 2013 | Features, UToday
By Cynthia Nowak



UT success coaches. They’re like personal trainers — but the exercises they provide to students are focused on a goal of successful graduation with a UT degree.

UT success coaches gathered before meeting with their students. They are, front row, from left, Lisa Bollman, Shawna Babula, Emily Schneider, April Sue Platt, Jessica Faber and Paulette Bongratz; second row, Jessica Weigle, Angela Duran, Kathleen Jensen and Marissa Reid; third row, Mary Youngs, Kari Dilworth and Malaika Bell; and back row, Richard Clark, Whitney Walker, Leslie Meyers and Jose Rosales.

UT success coaches gathered before meeting with their students. They are, front row, from left, Lisa Bollman, Shawna Babula, Emily Schneider, April Sue Platt, Jessica Faber and Paulette Bongratz; second row, Jessica Weigle, Angela Duran, Kathleen Jensen and Marissa Reid; third row, Mary Youngs, Kari Dilworth and Malaika Bell; and back row, Richard Clark, Whitney Walker, Leslie Meyers and Jose Rosales.

The newly launched University program is an initiative of the UT Strategic Plan, “Imagine 2017,” designed to enhance the student experience and increase retention, explained Dr. Kaye Patten Wallace, senior vice president for the student experience. The program matches new and transfer students with a success coach who will be a personal resource from admission through graduation.

“Each coach has an assigned roster of students,” she said. “Each success coach will work very proactively with his or her students and develop a personal relationship with them. They’ll connect with students regularly by whatever means is necessary — phone, texting, email, written messages — to keep them on track for their ultimate goal of graduation.

“Success coaches will be the single point of contact to assist students with any question, problem or concern they have related to their UT experience.”

Some of the areas in which success coaches help students are:

• Connecting them with appropriate academic resources such as tutoring, the Writing Center and the Math Lab;

• Ensuring they respond to necessary deadlines and helping them navigate paperwork;

• Assisting them in choosing student organizations and activities; and

• Helping them manage the multiple priorities of college life.

Success coaches provide one-on-one communication and support, and remain throughout the student’s entire academic journey at UT.

“A success coach is the student’s constant,” said Dr. Julie Fischer-Kinney, associate dean of YouCollege, who in her new role as supervisor of the success coaches reports directly to Patten Wallace. “They begin with a student’s initial adjustment to the policies and procedures of college, then move to transformational support as each student finds his or her place in the academic community and begins planning for a successful life after graduation.”

Success coaches have been assigned to students through four of the University’s five portal colleges — YouCollege, Adult and Lifelong Learning, Jesup Scott Honors and UTXnet World Campus. However, students with coaches are enrolled in colleges throughout the University in every major.

The comprehensive and ongoing training the success coaches receive includes both best practices for successful communication with their students, and an in-depth knowledge of the University’s programs, policies, procedures, systems and culture.

Also emphasized in the coaches’ training, Patten Wallace added, is the process of building relationships across the University community. “The coaches will work closely with advisers in the academic colleges, and partner with staff in service areas like Rocket Solution Central and student accounts to help students get the information they need.

“Collaboration and teamwork are the goals. Coaches should be viewed by the rest of the UT community as partners and allies, working together for the success of our students.”