Center for Student Success Opens

This year, Carter Hall opened a new advising space and student area: the Center for Student Success. Designed by the Dean of Students Brad Voyles and the Director of Academic Support Janet Hulsey, this center hopes to serve students in need of tutoring or personalized academic guidance, and also provides specialized attention for those with learning difficulties. The Center is located at the end of Carter Hall in room 143, and has space available for studying and test proctoring.

According to Sarah Ocando, who transferred from the office of Admissions and is now the Center’s “Director of Student Success,” the Center developed out of a series of conversations between Voyles and Hulsey on how to better support students. Prior to the Center’s creation, Hulsey had been single-handedly managing academic support for seven years. She noticed that students today have a better understanding of their learning needs than they did ten years ago, and so are better able to articulate them to faculty and advisors. Hulsey and Voyles realized that when looking at the long-term vision of Covenant College, their current model needed to be rearranged, so they met through the summer with the Academic Standards Committee of faculty members to create specific strategies for making more personalized assistance available to students.

Though the seeds were various, the project gained momentum when the committee considered what potential resources they could provide to students on the autistic spectrum and with learning difficulties. From there, the Center was devised and its main tasks were narrowed down.

The Center encompasses a wide umbrella of assistance, and prides itself on helping to meet the individual goals of each student. The team is built of Hulsey and Ocando, who serve as directors and advisors, as well as seven student assistants who work with the Student Development Office and one student who only works for the Center. Hulsey specifically works with helping students struggling with academics, time management, and learning difficulties, but the Center offers resources for the wider student body as well. Ocando advises students facing a variety of other issues, ranging from upperclassmen transitioning majors, underclassmen unsure of a major, and anyone who would like help brainstorming schedules or four year plans. The student employees not only man the front desk, but are available to help keep their peers accountable and on track with their work progress as they use the Center. Whatever the need, each student is given one on one attention.

The Center is well-aware of its connection to Covenant’s other student resources, as the office can supplement normal academic advisor meetings by walking through the course selection process alongside students, helping them with logistics, and facilitating more prepared meetings with the academic advisors themselves. It is not uncommon for Ocando to serve as a comfortable first step for underclassmen in navigating the college’s other offices, such as the Center for Calling and Career or the Office of Records.

Though the Center is still young, the directors are tracking the usage of the space and are so far encouraged. The role of the office appears to have been well-communicated so far, as it has already begun welcoming students who have been redirected from other offices. Another good sign for the Center was the interest that upperclassmen have taken to using the Center’s resources.

The Center is furnished to be as welcoming as possible, with whiteboards, tables and chairs, and brewing coffee with mugs ready for study groups. A mood-lit cubicle for intense study occupies the far left corner, which has already been appreciated by upperclassmen and off-campus students looking for a quiet space to get work done. The space can be used by anyone at any time, and has also been utilized as a designated area for students on academic probation who need to fulfill hours.

The Center held two “low key” open houses on Sept. 4: one for students and one for faculty. Hulsey and Ocando showed interested students the center with cookies and coffee, and spoke with each student individually to discuss how the center could best be utilized for them. They hope to expand their reputation through word of mouth, interested student leaders, and sponsored events such as study breaks.

The Center is particularly outspoken about being willing to adapt and grow. Ocando is open to seeing what unfolds over the next year, which she describes as a “litmus test” in learning how to best cater to students’ needs in the future. Because the Center is in its first form, the Directors are optimistic about being able to make modifications, molding the space to best help students relieve anxiety and succeed in their college pursuits.

“At first... most students say that’s not for me. That’s for somebody else, cause I’m doing fine,” says Ocando. “Our hope is... that we can help students see that we’re another resource for anyone.”

The Center’s advising hours are 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with additional time Monday through Thursday from 6-10 p.m. for studying only.