Keuka College has long been touted for its family-like atmosphere.
And a new effort by the Office of Student Affairs just might bring the family even closer, while hopefully having a positive impact on retention. In addition to their regular duties, the College’s seven residence directors (RDs) will become success advocates (SAs) for this year’s new crop of matriculates.
The role of the SAs is to be a friend, another resource on campus to help the students solve problems, and guide them on their path to graduation.
“We usually hear of unsuccessful students when we can no longer help them,” said Jim Blackburn, vice president for student development and dean of students. “What the success advocates will do is reduce some of the reactivity. We want to be proactive, connect with students right away, and focus on ways that will make each student successful.”
Seen as a front line resource for students, the SAs include RDs Margeaux DePrez (Space Hall), Eugene Mont (Ball Hall), Tim White (Blyley and Harrington Halls), McKala Accetura (Strong Hall Apartments), Kelsey Deso (Davis Hall), Rebecca Capek (Saunders Hall), and Kevin Perry (Keuka Park Apartments).
“We are not out to supplant anyone, or any program already in place,” said Blackburn. “Having the RDs serve as success advocates makes sense because our residence life staff is already in such close contact with students. The nature of their job makes them the ideal retention agents. The success advocates will be more proactive in working with others on campus, such as faculty, staff in the Academic Success at Keuka (ASK) Center, and Center for Experiential Learning, as well as coaches.”
The idea for SA program came in response to the retention rate (freshman to sophomore year).
“Retention efforts require a personal touch,” said Blackburn. “You can give students financial aid, paint their rooms, give them good food, and deliver engaging classes. That is all good, but they need a personal connection.”
Tracy McFarland, associate vice president of student development, agrees.
“The success advocates will have regular meetings with their assigned students, which will help them get to know the individual student and their needs,” she said. “They will also build individual plans for each student to help them achieve their goal of earning a college diploma.”
According to DePrez, “each RD will be assigned a group of new students, most likely by major. We will be with these same students from freshman through senior year, and even master’s degree [if needed]. We want to see the students at graduation and we will follow their progress from day one.”
The SAs will not only connect with their students but with the students’ teachers and other key people on campus.
“We are here to bridge any gap that students may feel when talking with faculty or other staff,” said White. “We can give them advice on how to talk with their professors, and we want to help those other faculty and staff members keep their students on track and successful. We want to hear about any shortcomings or difficulties a student may have so we can help, too. This makes for stronger College-wide collaboration and communication.”
Said Accetura: “The entire new student population will be spread between all seven of us, not just those who might be at risk. While we will focus on new students, we want all students to feel free to come to us at any time for anything—bad or good. If a student has a bad experience, we want to get to the issue as soon as we can, and get it resolved as quickly as possible.”
“These seven RDs are the best group I have seen in my career,” stated Blackburn. “If anyone can help our students become—and stay—successful, it’s this group. These RDs are extraordinary, and I have full confidence that they will help our students succeed.”