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Student Success Coaches for First Year Students

By Samantha Latos; For the Clock
On October 17, 2017

Student Success Coaches for First Year Students 

Samantha Latos

Asst. News Editor 

This fall semester marked the second year that Student Success Coaches have been working with freshmen at Plymouth State University instead of the traditional advisor. They strive to make sure freshmen are adjusting well, and are succeeding academically and socially. Kayla Gaudette, a Student Success Coach, believes that this plan as worked out very well so far. “We are specific to first-year students," she said, “And then we help transition them to the departments so they have their own major-specific advisor.” The Student Success Coaches help guide new students in the right direction. The transition from high school to college is huge, and these coaches are here to help every step of the way.

Marissa Lischinsky, a Student Success Coach, believes students should understand the difference between faculty and staff. “Success members are staff members, so we don’t teach classes," she said, “But we still have a lot of the same advising training as faculty advisors. Students only work with us for the first year, and then they work with the faculty advisors.” This method works because they can focus all of their energy towards their student’s success. “It’s our sole responsibility," Student Success Coach Ryan Donathan said, “That is our game plan for each day, to work with the students.” It is normal for students to feel confused during this time, and the coaches work with them to answer any questions they may have.

Every coach works with an equal amount of undeclared students, who they help find majors that fit their skills. Students at PSU can be undeclared until the end of their sophomore year, at which time they work with an academic advisor. Academic advisors teach classes, and also work with first-year students alongside Student Success Coaches. “I advise first-year criminal justice students, and nursing students, and Kathy Patenaude is dual-listed as the faculty advisor, and I am the Success Coach," Kayla Gaudette said, “It’s up to faculty if they want to be dual-listed in the departments or not.”

Freshmen keep the original coach they are assigned for their whole first year, even if they change their majors within that time. Over the summer, each coach is assigned certain clusters of students to work with, and every cluster has certain majors within them. They are assigned to all those students who were declared within those majors, within those clusters. “Once students change their majors, which is happening all the time, they’re still staying with their Student Success Coaches," Marissa Lischinsky said, “So we are now advising all majors, but we have the majority of the population for certain majors that we are working with. We don’t switch the students when they change majors, because we do not want to harm the relationships that have already been established.” Coaches do what they can to make their students feel comfortable. This year, the Coaches have started texting their students, to make communication easier. It is still new, and it is all targeted at student’s success and happiness. “We’re pretty excited," Kayla Gaudette said, “We like to say we have the best job on campus.”

Student Success Coaches help students find and explore career paths. It’s important for students to know what they enjoy doing, and identify their skills early on in their college careers. “The more interested they are in the topic, the more willing they are to study," Kayla Gaudette said, “That leads to better grades, and better jobs.” Career exploration is a long process, and students should explore as many job possibilities as possible. “If students come in and tell us what they want to do, and ask how they get there, we help them research that”, Marissa Lischinsky said, “We have a lot of resources for them, so they can create their path, even beyond Plymouth.” The earlier students explore possible career paths, the better off they will be after graduation. It will point them in the direction of internships, jobs, and Graduate School.

Another important part of the Student Success Coaches jobs is finding academic clubs for students to get involved in as early as possible, for their entertainment and for their resumes. “I have students tell me they're bored out of their minds, and that there’s nothing to do here, and we look for what kinds of clubs and organizations we have available," Ryan Donathan said. For students who experience family trauma or any mental health issues, Student Success Coaches are a good resource. All of them are capable of referring students to mental health professionals, and they are also more than willing to walk students over to the Counseling Center.

Freshmen often feel homesick or lonely during their first semester of college. Student Success Coaches do their best to make the transition as easy and painless as possible. Freshmen are encouraged to rely on them, especially if they are struggling. “They need to make sure they respond to our emails and come meet with us," Student Success Coach, Kelsey Donnelly said, “The only way we can help them is if they reach out to us and tell us their story, so we can make sure college is a good experience for them.”

So far, this approach has been successful. Students are happy with their coaches, and all the work they have accomplished. “Kelsey Donnelly was very helpful, and I look forward to working with her this and next semester”, said freshman Justin Juppe. Another freshmen, Andrew Jalbert, said, “Kayla Gaudete answered all of my questions and helped me take control of my schedule.” Student Success Coaches positively impact the academic and social lives of PSU freshmen. They help them identify skills and passions that will stay with them throughout their four years, and into their futures. 


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