The students’ journey at Kuyper College consists of more than showing up for classes and studies. Many students are working either at school or elsewhere as they balance a full- or part-time load. They have friendships, family and churches they are connected to and non-academic interests they want to pursue. Their dreams, goals, doubts and even fears are a constant flood into their stream of consciousness. With all of this going on, how do they get the help they need to successfully navigate the exciting environment of college life?
Introducing the student success coach program, developed by Kuyper’s student development department. The program, headed by Jana Postma, assistant director of student development, provides opportunities for upperclassmen to mentor lowerclassmen, passing on their experiences and insights to them and thereby fostering experiential learning, growth and advancement.
The goal of the student success coach is to challenge and serve the Kuyper student community, helping students where they have need. “This is a brand-new program where we are partnering with students to give them peer mentoring and accountability partners,” said Postma. “Although the school also offers one-onone professional counseling and career mentorship from faculty, it is not the same as having a peer working alongside another.” The student success coaches will work directly with students one-on-one in the academic, emotional, social and spiritual areas of students’ lives and will both listenand advise students as they navigate personal and group dynamics.
Postma added that the program is not only beneficial for the lowerclassmen, but for the coaches as well as they reflect on their years of experience, what they have learned, and how they want to invest into new students. “While it enhances the richness of their experience as they help other students navigate through life, our hope is that what is learned by both sides would not be confined within our campus,” said Postma. “We would like to see student coaches and lowerclassmen equipped to also help family and friends as they navigate life’s complexities, and to be an encouragement to them along the way.
Mike McCarthy, student development coordinator of vocation, calling and community life, shared his thoughts on the new program. “There are numerous factors affecting students at college. I believe any definition and conversation about student success has to consider the whole of a student’s experience,” said McCarthy. “A student’s academic success is of obvious importance, yet there are a number of other factors that impact their learning. The opportunities they have to socialize with peers, the connections they have with faculty, how they understand their calling to serve in God’s world, all of these are important to the development of our students.” According to him, many students resonate with this, knowing that social dynamics play a central role in one’s involvement on campus and their success at school. “Although a few people can ‘lone wolf’ their college experience and excel, most people learn better when invested into a community and involved with social activities. The college experience is a wide and complex continuum that we want to support students in navigating,” he said.
For this school year there are five upperclassmen stepping into coaching roles. As new students are mentored and grow, they will be evaluated and encouraged to step into coaching roles and go on to mentor others.
“Although there are many planned outcomes for this program, we will be evaluating the short- and long-term results as the year progresses,” said Postma. “Our ultimate desire is for students to mature holistically and learn to be a part of something greater than themselves.”