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Student Success Comes First

May 17, 2021
woman standing outside
Nycole Courtney heads the new Office of Student Success and Graduation, a program to improve retention and help students graduate on time and achieve their goals.

A new initiative aims to help students make the most of their time at UW. 

By Micaela Myers 

At the University of Wyoming, a new movement is underway—a movement in which everyone across campus works together for student success, and experienced students help incoming students make the most of their college experience.

“The Office of Student Success and Graduation was created from a presidential directive and is aimed at helping students graduate in a timely manner, improving retention rates, and helping students persist and achieve their goals,” says the leader of the office, Nycole Courtney.

Graduating in a timely manner helps students avoid debt. In addition, when students get involved on campus early in their careers, they rate higher levels of satisfaction with their school, and it improves their retention and success. If students are getting off track or need extra help, the office is there to assist. This means coordinating across campus so students are successful inside the classroom and out.

“We’re really thinking about this as a coalition of student success and graduation,” Courtney says. “That coalition is set up to help reduce barriers and address any other concerns that might occur.”

One of the new office’s goals is to better communicate with parents—creating an even stronger support network. Emails go out monthly to students and family highlighting important dates and information. During the pandemic, office personnel also called students to check in on them and provide any needed assistance or resources.

“The office aims to support students through the full journey from enrollment, to day one of classes through graduation and on to alumni,” Courtney says.

 

Cowboy Coaching

Cowboy Coaching is a key program the office offers to all incoming freshmen and any other interested students. “It brings together all the pieces from across campus and highlights ways students can get involved now,” Courtney says. “It matches interested students with an experienced peer who has gone through those hurdles and can help them navigate any challenges. The coach can help them get connected with campus resources, and they provide important tips for success.”

“We offer advice about classes, professors, work/play balance, involvement on and off-campus, the opportunity for upperclassman peer connection, resources for struggling students, check-ins as frequently as the student would like, events like mental health/well-being workshops, game nights and more,” says senior Cowboy Coach Maya Koch of Denver, who is majoring in psychology with a minor in statistics.

“I would definitely recommend Cowboy Coaching,” says first-year participant Aubrey Kay of Castle Rock, Colo. “Last semester I was struggling, and Cowboy Coaching was something that really helped me get through. It was an amazing opportunity to get help when I needed it with my classes and with general questions as well.”

a woman and a man sitting down, wearing masks and talking
Cowboy Coaches Grace Seely, John Houghton and Joey Flock gather for a chat with the new “Bro-Bot” interactive robot in the lower level of Washakie Dining Center.

Senior Madelyn Lundblad of Aurora, Colo., was Aubrey’s coach. “There were a lot of things I had no idea about as a freshman,” says the elementary education and psychology major, who is also minoring in music. “I would have benefitted from having someone guide me. We get to know our mentees, what their goals are and what they’d like to do with their time.”

Like all the coaches, Lundblad is a self-described people person and enjoys helping other students. After graduation, she plans to teach overseas for a couple of years before returning stateside.

“I gained a lot of knowledge about a wide variety of topics through Cowboy Coaching,” says another of Lundblad’s mentees, human nutrition and dietetics major McKenna Auzqui of Clearmont, Wyo. “I have been better able to establish a healthy studying and living routine due to Mady’s presence in my college career. I also was fortunate enough to make some friends before actually stepping foot on campus, which made the transition to Laramie much easier.”

“We’re here as people who are in college the same as you,” says sophomore Cowboy Coach Soren Ostergren of Fort Collins, Colo. “We’ve been freshmen before, and we have a unique perspective on the resources that can make you a real success in college.”

Ostergren is applying for the social work program at UW and is minoring in disability studies and literature. He plans to help people for a living. “I love being able to talk to so many people about so many topics and have connections that I wouldn’t have been able to build otherwise,” he says of the coaching experience. “I also love being able to know of resources and help students.”

Weekly emails to freshman highlight information the coaches agree would have been helpful to them as new students, such as knowing how to get involved and financial and time-management skills.

“The email are full of information that helped me better picture what my first semester of college would look like,” Auzqui says.

“In my freshman year of college, I dropped out of school because I was struggling with my mental health and academics,” Koch says. “I want to use my experiences to help freshmen at UW make the most of their time here and stay healthy and happy. I found a home at UW, so I know these students can too!”

 

Pivotal Moments

The journey through college comes with difficulties, challenges and even failure. There are times when students don’t know what’s next, as the road ahead looks bumpy. They wonder whether college is for them.

In those moments, countless current and former UW students have already experienced their own Pivotal Moment—a crucial time in which they found the resource that helped them turn the corner. That is a main goal at the Office of Student Success and Graduation: connecting students to the things they need during their college journey.

Leaning on unbendable optimism and unyielding courage, getting past the struggles and returning to the path to graduation is always an option. Pivotal Moments will take you through a series of inspiring tales about Pokes who have shown unbelievable character to overcome adversity; and hopefully, inspire other students to do the same.

To follow these stories, learn more or get involved, visit uwyo.edu/student-success.


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