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Coaching Mason’s Success Coaches: A holistic approach to meeting student needs

December 9, 2019   /   by Mariam Aburdeineh

Mason success coaches, who guide undergraduate and transfer students, received coaching of their own in Nov. from InsideTrack. Photo provided.

Students deciding on a major, and those transferring from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) to George Mason University, are two of the groups supported by the Mason Care Network and ADVANCE Program. The success coaches guiding these students, and NOVA and Mason advising managers, received coaching of their own on Nov. 18-21 from InsideTrack.

“As higher education professionals, we have an obligation to help our students succeed,” said Mason Care Network director Adrienne Thompson. “There are a lot of things we’re already doing, but [InsideTrack’s] framework gave us another angle and approach to be able to serve our students as holistically as possible.”

The full-day workshops held in the Hub consisted of lectures and hands-on activities, where about 15 Mason coaches role-played to see how InsideTrack’s coaching model works. “Real-playing,” where coaches acted out scenarios they’ve encountered with students, also helped coaches get feedback on what was successful and how they could be even more effective in the future.

ADVANCE success coaches Bradley Brooks and Sharon Kim. Photo provided.

“It was good to learn the framework and theory related to coaching methodology,” said Sharon Kim, a success coach in the ADVANCE Program that supports students transferring from NOVA to Mason. “I learned that coaching is not giving advice; it is about creating a partnership with the student and walking along with them to support them—the student is always an active participant in the coaching session.”

The methodology will be implemented into ADVANCE and the Mason Care Network, Thompson said, and in future semesters, freshman and transfer students from all institutions will be served by the coaches.

“Success coaches are a critical resource for ADVANCE, ensuring students start and finish their degrees seamlessly,” said executive director of ADVANCE Ashlie Prioleau. “Very few places, if any, create an opportunity for a safety net at all points in their journey, shortly after high school to starting their careers.”

“The training further equipped the coaches with the necessary tools to ask the right questions so our students are successful,” Prioleau said.

As student success is multi-faceted, helping students get to graduation includes supporting them academically, but also in personal challenges. Active listening and relationship building are at the heart of meeting student needs, Kim said.

Some of those needs pertain to students who are first in their family to go to college and haven’t navigated the college process before. Other times they may intersect with a lack of support outside of school or social, financial or personal struggles.

“[Through this training] I’ve learned tips, tricks and methodologies to help students realize that I’m here, yes, for their academic advising, but I’m also here to help overcome any barriers that students might have, depending on their unique background,” said Bradley Brooks, an ADVANCE success coach. “I feel that I’m better prepared to give students the space and ability to dream what they want to achieve and build a personalized, custom delivery of their education that centers on them every step of the way.”