Personal Success Teams Help Students Transition Remotely
Adjusting to college can be challenging. For incoming students who are launching their college careers at home, making that adjustment remotely presented additional hurdles.
To help the newest members of the Pride, Widener introduced Personal Student Success Teams this fall, a new campus-wide collaboration that builds off of existing networks to offer individualized support and connections for incoming and transfer students to help them navigate their first years at Widener.
The Success Teams are another example of the way Widener’s institutional agility benefits students, to provide them an exceptional experience. Agility is a key component of the university’s core strategy. When unique circumstances created a need for individualized, additional services, Widener was able to move quickly in mobilizing people and services onto the teams.
“We organized the success teams this summer as a way for our first-year students to have a community of faculty, students and administrators named and ready to help them have a successful transition to college,” said Geraldine Bloemker, associate provost for Student Success.
Personalized attention isn’t a new initiative at Widener. The teams are an extension of the university’s robust network that connects students to one-on-one support from advisors and mentors in departments across campus, including academic programs and student affairs.
This initiative enabled us to proactively connect new students with our proven support teams and programming across campus. —Geraldine Bloemker, associate provost for Student Success
The teams provide a personalized roadmap for students to engage with Widener from a distance. Each team connects students to an academic advisor, a peer mentor, a personal librarian, and a member of the Office of Student Success and Office of Student Affairs.
Molly Wolf, head of Research and Instructional Services in the Wolfgram Memorial Library, says that working with an interdisciplinary team of students, faculty and administrators can help students build relationships while also gaining direct access to the support they need.
“Incoming students now have another personal connection – an actual human being with a face, not a bot, who is rooting for you and who is here to support you,” said Wolf. “We’re here to keep you abreast of developments in the library, services that we offer, resources that we have.”
According to Tim Cairy, executive director of Student Success, the inclusion of peer mentorship is a new and critically important component.
What we hope from the mentors, and the advisors, is to alleviate some of the anxiety that some of these students are coming in with. —Tim Cairy, executive director of Student Success
Cairy’s team assembled and trained a group of peer mentors ahead of the fall semester to serve as an
additional support layer to help new students navigate questions and uncertainties, and welcome them to Widener.
“We want to build a home environment for students; a place where they can easily get answers to their questions,” said Cairy.
For senior business major Samantha Begley, volunteering to be a mentor was a no-brainer because she remembers the many unknowns during the first-year transition
I wanted to be an asset to students because I know where they’re at and I know some of the challenges that can come with getting to know a new campus environment. —Samantha Begley '21
Begley is a member of the School of Business Administration’s learning community support team, a program-specific team that matches students with others in their majors. Working alongside Professors Dennis Laker and Stephanie Wendling, Begley holds weekly meetings with the group designed to give students direct access to classmates and professors, where they get to know one another and acclimate to Widener.
“Going to college [as a freshman] no one really knows anybody, so for everyone to be online we want the students to build friendships or at least know a familiar face for when they arrive on campus,” said Begley.
Only a few weeks into the semester Begley had already noticed that students were adapting to the remote college experience.
“Everyone is responding really well to it and they’re excited for the next meetings. I’m looking forward to it as well,” she said.