Bringing it back home: SIUE Alumni return to help with student success

Via UnSplash.

The Office of Academic Advising recently announced a new position, known as Student Success Coaches. These coaches will help students connect with resources on campus to help them with life at SIUE. Coincidentally, all three of the new coaches are SIUE Alumni.

According to Assistant Director of Online Student Services Stephanie Simpson, a position like this has been something SIUE has wanted for a long time. However, the fact that all three new employees are alumni is a happy coincidence. 

“It just ended up with three candidates who graduated from the institution,” Simpson said. “I don’t think we actively sought out candidates who had some sort of connection with the university, but they all do.”

Since the coaches are all former SIUE students, they all have connections to places and people at SIUE. For example, Assistant Director of Academic Advising Kelly Atkins, who supervises the new coaches, said she remembered Nathan Brown, an alumnus and a new Student Success Coach.

“At some point in the hiring process, he said his degree was in psychology, and I said, ‘Were you one of my students? I used to be an adviser in the psychology department,’ and he said, ‘No, I don’t think so’,” Atkins said. “But then, as he’s sitting in my office, he looks up at some of the pictures, and he was like, ‘Oh, my God, you were my adviser!’”  

Brown transferred away from SIUE in 2017, and he said he always looked back on his previous experiences at SIUE fondly.

“The best way to describe my time here is as a path of self discovery. I left SIUE and did my masters in college counseling at St. Cloud State in Minnesota. I transferred there for more of a counseling aspect to my major instead of just psychology,” Brown said. “I made that jump, and in those years from 2017 to now, I was getting more experience counseling, doing things like academic advising, working with students and just generally getting a lot of student affairs experience.”

Brown said his counseling experience will help him in this new position quite a bit. The main idea behind this position, according to Brown, is to work as a liaison between students and other departments or parts of the university to help them academically.

“The big things are connecting students to resources, like the Career Development Center or research projects, and engaging with them. If they need help discussing grades with professors, or department chairs, we would be there to help,” Brown said. “And we’ll be advocating for them as well. If they need help working with stress or time management, we are there for that too.”

Atkins said help from these coaches will be available for anyone interested, but it would also be something given out as seen necessary. According to Atkins, some of the coaches already encountered the latter.

“We had a faculty member reach out to us last week concerned about three students in her class. And all of the students had been doing well, but just sort of fell off in the last few weeks of the spring semester,” Atkins said. “The faculty said they were trying to reach out to the students, to assist them or offer them additional time to complete the grades. Nathan and I set up appointments with the students and just talked through some of those things.”

The role may seem similar to that of an academic adviser, but Simpson said there is a clear difference between the two positions. 

“[Provost Denise Cobb] has referenced the need for students to receive an additional level of support that’s not necessarily the role of, or within the roles of, academic advisers. While they are positioned to provide academic support to students, focusing on their course load,” Simpson said. “There’s this realization that students need some different level of support, or different types of support, especially during a pandemic.”

All three of the new Student Success Coaches start their work this month.

For more information, visit the Office of Academic Advising’s website.

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