As a first-generation college student from rural West Virginia, I have devoted over twenty years to a career in higher education as a way to give back to a system that has given so much to me. Advocating for students from all backgrounds to help them achieve academic success, and avoid many of the barriers I once faced as a first in family college student, is truly my passion. It is a true privilege to work alongside an exceptional team in the Academic Success Center (ASC) and countless partners from across the campus. We are dedicated to providing academic support to undergraduate students to promote and reinforce student persistence, academic progression, and timely completion of degrees.
Beginning in fall 2019, the Division of Undergraduate Academic Affairs expanded ongoing efforts to support student success, in alignment with the UMBC strategic plan and university goals. This expansion resulted in the ASC’s unified mission: to support all undergraduate students through the delivery of a robust array of academic support services (Academic Advocacy, Academic Learning Resources and Academic Policy) which enhance and empower students to successfully reach their educational goals. The Center also welcomes questions and inquiries from all faculty, staff, and partners to ensure consistent support to all undergraduates.
The Academic Success Center consists of both physical and digital spaces where students from any college can find the academic assistance they need for a variety of disciplines. Like many learning centers, the ASC pivoted to providing all of our services remotely in March, 2020. We shifted our tutoring online, creating virtual spaces to host appointment and drop-in tutoring. We provided virtual Supplemental Instruction (SI PASS) sessions where students could collaborate and learn together. Both virtual tutoring and SI PASS worked well; we saw students attending appointment tutoring more in fall 2020 remotely than in fall 2019 in-person! We expanded the First-Year Intervention Alerts Program, now called the Early Academic Alerts Program, so that all students could be informed by their professors if they were having difficulty in their courses, and be connected to resources for success. We held virtual meetings to provide individualized support and care to students. Our Academic Advocates reached out to students, helping them navigate campus resources, ensuring that students would be retained and graduate.
Not only were we able to continue to provide support to students, we were able to adapt, partner, and innovate. To support the transition to remote education, we created an online learning resource page, with videos and guides to help students succeed during online learning. Through a partnership with the College of Engineering and Information Technology, we opened the Computing Success Center, offering drop-in tutoring virtually for computer programming questions. And, through a Hrabowski Innovation Grant, we are able to provide virtual SI PASS support for all sections of MATH 151 and research the impact on our students.
Although we were separated, we found ways to stay connected to students and to
each other. We built a robust social media presence on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. We continued to check in with our staff and our students to provide support and to build community. This past academic year has truly been a lesson in resilience. As we prepare to return for the fall 2021, we will carry these lessons forward and continue to provide online and in-person academic support to help students claim their future with their UMBC degree.