For Texas A&M students committed to being successful in their studies, there’s no better place to start than the Academic Success Center.
The Academic Success Center exemplifies Texas A&M’s commitment to excellence. Not only is the recently launched center expertly staffed and booked solid — three weeks into the semester with more than 1,800 students referred and about 700 already participating — but it’s also helping to meet the requirements of the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP): “Aggies Commit to Learning for a Lifetime.”
One of the core components of the QEP is to ensure that students are experienced in making and sticking with commitments. At the Academic Success Center, commitment is the name of the game.
James Kracht, assistant provost for undergraduate studies and the center’s executive director says: “We want to make a positive difference in the lives of our students by encouraging them to commit to being successful. Once the commitment is made, our goal is to help them master the necessary learning skills to earn their degrees from Texas A&M in a timely manner, without a mountain of debt, and enter the workforce as productive members of society.”
A collaboration between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, with the full support of the president and provost of the university, the center was created to help students identify roadblocks to academic success, provide them with access to free comprehensive resources and help them achieve their highest possible academic potential. It fulfills the QEP goal of enhancing the coaching and advising necessary to help Aggie students plan, commit to and reflect upon their participation in the high-impact learning experiences the university provides to prepare them as lifelong learners and leaders.
The coaching/advising process begins for most students after attending one of the six orientation workshops offered at the start of the semester. Titled “Fresh Start to Success,” the orientation is “an introduction to why you could benefit from working with the Academic Success Center.”
Students learn that they can come to the center – on the second floor of the YMCA building – and meet with one of the six highly trained academic coaches on staff to undergo an assessment of their skills, strengths, concerns and any challenges they may be facing. At that point, their coach will confer with them and together they will devise an individualized action plan.
The plan might include attending the eight-session, “Commit to Success” workshops to master a variety of study skills, such as time and stress management and test anxiety, or enrolling in a semester-long learning theories class. In many cases, the academic coaches will meet with students several times throughout the semester and refer students as needed for more intensive academic support services, such as content-specific tutoring, or for specialized student services.
After her son attended the first orientation workshop and met with an academic coach, an email from a grateful Aggie mom to the provost’s office said it all: “Thank you for caring about my son this way. This program is already making a huge impact on him. Keep up the good work!”
A critical component of the “good work” is accountability. The academic coaches meet regularly with each student to help them realize their action plans. Individual student progress is monitored under the direction of Joel McGee, the center’s co-director, whose responsibilities include managing the departmental data-base and reporting functions. Texas A&M faculty, deans, department heads and academic advisors are fully engaged throughout the process, with all committed to each student’s success.
McGee works closely with the center’s two assistant directors: Kathleen Speed and Bari Brookins, who facilitate topical study skills workshops, teach short-term and semester-long classes and provide other direct services to students.
Lyle Slack, co-director of the center, has 20 years of academic counseling experience under his belt. Slack is responsible for training the six coaches, all of whom demonstrate an enthusiastic, service-oriented dedication to student success.
“I was put on this planet to help students figure out how to succeed; it’s who I am,” says academic coach, Becky Adair, class of ’86, and her fellow coaches echo that commitment.
Joseph Guy is an academic coach who was recruited based on his work as a Resident Life Director at New Mexico State University. “I came to Texas A&M’s Academic Success Center,” says Guy, ’because I saw the need for the one-on-one student advising being done here and I knew I wanted to help meet that need.”
One of the students Guy coaches is Laura Hernandez, ’16, a general studies major. “I made the commitment to step it up this semester, because I’m taking 17 hours and trying to switch into mechanical engineering. Working with my coach and taking the skills workshop is helping me figure out how to handle all my courses and do it successfully.”
“With the Academic Success Center going at full speed, it’s easy to see the impact it will have on the students at Texas A&M, “ states Slack. “We now have free comprehensive support services centrally located, rather than spread out across departments, with all of us totally committed to helping students achieve their highest academic potential.”
Slack adds, “Another likely outcome is an increase in the graduation rate as more and more Aggies get in, commit to success, do the necessary hard work and obtain their degrees in a reasonable amount of time. Ultimately, that benefits the students, the university and the state.”
Registration for the ASC Workshops is required.
About 12 Impacts of the 12th Man: 12 Impacts of the 12th Man is an ongoing series throughout the year highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional impacts, visit http://12thman.tamu.edu/.