Helping students succeed
A Q&A with Associate Director of Student Success Beth Samuels.
A lot goes into making sure a student succeeds, and as Associate Director of Student Success Beth Samuels states, every moment counts, but with a merged strategy to help students along the way, Samuels and the Center for Student Success are finding new and innovative ways to make it happen.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: As the associate director of Student Success, I primarily oversee the success coaches and assist with the academic advising and course registration process at the College. I was born and raised in Falconer, NY. I am a graduate of St. John Fisher and Canisius College. I earned my master’s degree in higher education student affairs and have now been working in higher education for nine years. My husband, Matt, and I live in Rome with our beautiful daughter Charlotte. My hobbies include everything in the realm of being a mom and taking care of my little baby. Although I do not watch a lot of television lately, I do have a favorite TV show, which is Grey’s Anatomy.
Q: What does your position entail?
A: In addition to supervising the success coaches on campus, I am currently working to implement the new academic recovery program for students who need additional academic support. I am also heavily involved in the launch of a product called EAB Navigate. My day-to-day tasks include assisting the students toward degree completion and helping students retain and enjoy their experience at UC.
Q: What was the thinking behind the recent merging of the Office of Student Success and SFS?
A: Through New York State, a lot of student scholarships and tuition assistance is dependent on course credit and degree completion. A lot of the requirements for NYS TAP and the Enhanced Tuition Awards are connected and dependent upon if the student is earning and maintaining enough credits toward their degree. Merging the offices allowed it to become a one-stop shop so we could help to make sure that students are completing their degree in the correct time frame and earning the right amount of credits to help them maintain their financial aid. By moving into the same office, students can easily meet with financial aid counselor and success coach at the same time or one right after the other. We are also implementing the concept of an academic care team, which includes the faculty advisor, the success coach, and the financial aid counselor.
Q: What changes were made?
A: We are now called the Center for Student Success. We work hand in hand with all the areas of need. The big change is that we have more people working with each student. With this merge, we are now able to connect with each other much more quickly and much more easily. We are able to track students progression easier and resolve any issues that may arise in a really efficient manner. With the merging of the offices, we’re collaborating more with various departments. Working with other offices isn’t necessarily a change, as we have been doing this all along. However, the speed at which we are to accomplish these collaborations to help get students’ needs met has changed due to our combined offices.
Q: In what ways will this merge continue to be beneficial in the future?
A: From when a student makes their deposit to when they apply to graduate, the merge of the two offices really helps to make sure that the student understands the academic piece of what they need to do for degree completion, but also hand in hand with how much are they paying, how much they are going to owe in loans, and any other questions they might have about the financial aspect of their college experience. We’re including an entire financial literacy component about understanding exactly what higher education costs and what that means for each individual student. Therefore, moving forward, everything is streamlined. From the moment the student makes the deposit, they can meet with both individuals and they have assigned staff members that work with them depending on their major. Those staff members become experts in the students’ major to make students really have the experience of that personal, individualized touch.
Q: Can you think of specific instances where this merge has been particularly helpful to students?
A: Absolutely! In between semesters, the merged offices have been able to connect a student who may have a financial need get that resolved and in the same moment, as soon as that financial need was handled, we were able to get that student registered for classes instantly. We have had a lot of students who have noticed that it is a lot easier and a lot more efficient. They no longer have to track people down, run around, or go back and forth from office to office. It’s all done simultaneously. People are now aware and we can track how we are doing. We’re also able to address the needs of students who may have had a rough semester, a rough start, or whose fall semester just didn’t go the way they wanted it. We’re able to incorporate financial literacy, intrusive academic support, and by partnering with career services, we’re able to talk about majors and minors and if a program is right for a specific student.
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