Putting New Students on Track with Personal Success Teams

Emily Barrett, assistant director of communications
Two female students sit outside talking while other students walk past.
Maria Muzzarelli's (right) one-on-one support and guidance from her peer mentor Marissa Camac (left) has helped her navigate her first days at Widener.

When it came time to embark on her college career, Maria Muzzarelli embraced the change. The freshman psychology major, who is also enrolled in the 3+3 occupational therapy pathway program, was eager to start a new chapter on her own.

“I was most excited about the freedom and being on my own,” said Muzzarelli.

Though Muzzarelli, like many first-year students, was ready to experience her independence, she is doing so with the help of her own Widener Personal Student Success Team (PSST). 

Equipping the newest members of the Pride with the tools they need to succeed academically and personally is a fundamental component of the student experience at Widener. From tutoring services and

Tim Cairy walks with a female student on campus
Tim Cairy (left) is director of the Office of Student Success & Retention.

research assistance, to academic coaching and mental health support, Widener offers an array of resources to meet students where they are. With access to their own personal success teams, students know exactly who to turn to from day one. 

Launched by the Office of Student Success, the PSST program is a collection of existing academic and personal support networks brought together to give every new student access to one-on-one support and guidance. Each PSST puts students in direct contact with individuals and resources across campus, specifically an academic advisor, faculty mentor, a personal librarian, and liaisons to the Offices of Student Affairs and Student Success.

After introducing the program in fall 2020, Tim Cairy, director of the Office of Student Success, says the goal is to build on the program’s initial success with an increased emphasis on providing incoming students with a peer mentor. 

Looking at best practices across the country, we know that peer mentoring helps, so it is our goal to make sure that every student has that experience." —Tim Cairy, director of the Office of Student Success. 

Muzzarelli was paired with senior psychology major Marissa Camac as the peer mentor on her success team. She refers to Camac as her lifeline, providing her “with all of the information that I need to put me in the right direction.”

I look at her as the first person that I go to if I have any questions about anything school-related." Maria Muzzarelli '25 

A female student sits in the University Center talking with a peer.
As a peer mentor, Marissa Camac '22 connects with Muzzarelli and other new students to offer guidance and support.

Camac, who is on the 3+3 physical therapy doctoral track, aims to be not only an advocate for students during their initial days and weeks as an undergraduate, but a friend during the challenging, and sometimes intimidating, transition to college. 

“Professors and other staff are always there for anything that students need, but I feel that having someone on the same level as the other students, for them to come to for whatever they need, is really helpful,” said Camac.

Muzzarelli couldn’t agree more, adding “it’s so helpful, especially since [Marissa] is a student. She knows more and can relate more, like she’s been in my shoes before and she knows what it’s like from my perspective.”

In addition to matching students with a robust, individualized personal support team, the Office of Student Engagement offers students a series of comprehensive programs and opportunities throughout the year to get involved on campus, explore a variety of co-curricular programs, and find their second home with the Pride.

“We aim to serve as an ongoing resource for new students by encouraging involvement, leadership development, and helping to further marry our new students to our campus resources,” said Austin Duckett, assistant dean of students. 

According to Camac, introducing students to all that Widener has to offer not only puts students on track to succeed in their first year, but throughout their undergraduate career.

“It’s helpful when it comes to them excelling in the process of growing as a student,” said Camac.

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