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Published April 25, 2023
By Tamara Linse
Nycole Courtney is the UW dean of Student Success and Graduation and the associate vice president for Student Affairs. Her job helps all students thrive at UW and successfully earn their degrees while preparing for life after college. Before this role, she led efforts within Student Affairs on student welfare, sexual misconduct, disability support services and student conduct. Prior to UW, Courtney held similar roles at Laramie County Community College.
The Student Success and Graduation Hub only existed as a spark of an idea until three years ago, when it became a full-fledged department. As the pandemic mounted, the need for a heightened dedication to student success became apparent, and Student Success and Graduation was born. The novel, high-impact practices the unit has come to specialize in make UW a pioneer in this area.
But Courtney knows student success not just from her incredible work in Student Affairs — she first discovered the need for dedicated support programming from her time here at UW as a student. She has earned three degrees from UW as a first-generation transfer student.
Courtney grew up in Riverton, Wyo. She was the first in her family to attend college and learned the ropes of higher education with no guidance. She had been active in student government in high school and received a scholarship to Central Wyoming College, where she studied for a year and a half before transferring to UW. Her parents’ income narrowly disqualified her from receiving a Pell Grant, so she too worked to support her way through college.
“Being born and raised in a small town, there were a lot of expectations for you to stay and keep doing what you’re doing, but I knew I needed to do something else,” Courtney says. “I paid for college all by myself and figured out how to navigate college all by myself.”
Courtney endured dark times during undergrad, but a few people stepped in and made all the difference: “Some of my advising team and faculty were like, ‘Don’t quit. You can do this.’ I wouldn’t be here without them. There’s that moment where you meet someone who genuinely cares about you and thinks that you are capable, regardless of what barriers you might face. They genuinely want you to be successful. That’s when it clicked. So now I want to pay it forward.”
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