4A: Improve undergraduate academic advising and student support

The Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) will lead an initiative to revamp the advising process to include conversations about students’ current and future goals – academic, professional, and personal. While these conversations certainly occur in some advising interactions, they are not as universal as they should be. Effective advising enhances student learning, promotes professional development and a healthy work-life balance, and strengthens student retention.

The a partnership, the VPAA and Vice President for Student Life (VPSL) will coordinate our varied student support services – which are currently distributed across upper and lower campus – beneath a new initiative called the Student Success Center. The Center will organize forms of academic support, such as peer tutoring and writing assistance, with resources for social support, such as workshops on time management, handling stress, and sustaining healthy interpersonal relationships.

  • The Student Success Center (SSC) encompasses multiple offices across campus. The SSC's holistic approach helps students identify roadblocks to academic and personal success, while ensuring all students have access to comprehensive services. Affiliated offices include: Counseling Services, Health Services, Student Accessibility Services, Wellness Services, and the Writing Center.
  • Established SSC mission statement, policies, procedures, and campus partnerships
  • Supported the implementation of Pathways by supporting the First-Year Experience
  • “Starting Strong: Intentional Strategies for Improving First Year Student Success” selected as the campus’ next Quality Enhancement Plan
  • Completed SSC evaluation and assessment in 2018, resulting in the following action plan.

A student sits with a professor with open books and notebooks

Starting Strong

Quality Enhancement Plan supports academic advising

This past year, the University launched its Quality Enhancement Plan, called Starting Strong, as part of the reaffirmation of accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The QEP aims to enhance the first-year student experience.

The QEP focuses on three parts of first-year academic success: advising, teaching, and academic support resources. The program refines and expands the training offered to new and experienced first-year advisers, and a new advising coordinator will spearhead adviser training and implement best practices throughout the first-year advising process. Introductory-level teaching incorporates early-alert strategies to identify first-year students who will benefit from timely intervention. Trinity will also bolster academic support services, particularly in STEM fields (where difficulties are often encountered by first-year students). A second, new professional staff position, the quantitative reasoning and skills director, will oversee STEM academic support systems, including supplementary instruction and in-person tutoring.

In the spring, the QEP was found by the SACSCOC reviewers to be in compliance with all relevant standards, with final action to be taken in the commission’s winter meeting.

Smiling Faces of Student Success

Trinity expands support team, emphasizes Starting Strong

Meet the faces of student support and accessibility services, all part of Trinity’s Starting Strong Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which aims to improve first-year student success over the next five years.

Betty Curry

As director for Academic Support, Betty Curry coordinates the support services housed in the Tiger Learning Commons (Academic Coaching, Student Accessibility Services, the Writing Center, and the Quantitative Reasoning and Skills Center) and is a co-director of the Student Success Center. In 2017, Curry earned a Master of Education in higher education/student affairs at The University of Texas at San Antonio. Before joining the Academic Support/TLC team, she served as the program assistant to Trinity’s Mellon Initiative for Undergraduate Research in the Arts and Humanities.

Jennifer Rowe

As director for the Writing Center, Jennifer Rowe is committed to supporting undergraduate writers in all disciplines and to preparing her writing consultants for careers in editing, publishing, and beyond. Not only does she teach several First-Year Experience courses, Rowe participates in Trinity’s Summer Bridge and Upward Bound programs and is an active member of the Student Success Center. She has been teaching college-level composition for more than 16 years at schools including Trinity University, the University of Maryland – College Park, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, and Boston College, where she also earned her master’s in English language and literature.

Myeshia Smith

As assistant director for Student Accessibility Services, Myeshia Smith consults and facilitates the interactive process for exploring reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Additionally, she assists with the University's efforts to ensure an accessible, hospitable learning environment for persons with disabilities. Her professional experiences include previously serving as a school psychologist and director of pupil appraisal at a New Orleans charter school network.

Luke Tunstall

As director for Trinity’s new Quantitative Reasoning and Skills Center, Luke Tunstall works with students and faculty to promote student success in quantitatively-demanding coursework. Tunstall comes to Trinity from Michigan State University, where was is a University Distinguished Fellow and received his Ph.D. in mathematics education. Tunstall is heavily involved in the quantitative literacy movement in higher education and is committed to fostering students’ quantitative reasoning practices across disciplines.

Lapetra Bowman

As advising coordinator, Lapetra Bowman functions as a conduit between faculty and students and supporting the efforts of Starting Strong. She develops advising tools, degree plans, checklists, workshops, and adviser training for faculty. Bowman has a doctorate in English and has worked as an academic adviser for 17 years while teaching undergraduate courses in English, humanities, and women’s studies. She has also worked as a retention specialist, program coordinator, assessment coordinator, internship coordinator, and thesis program coordinator.