Skip to main content

Success coaches help students navigate challenges of college

Campus Life Jul 6, 2022
Three men and two women pose in the library.
Three men and two women pose in the library.

KOKOMO, Ind. — When R.J. Ogelsby enrolled at Indiana University Kokomo, he was confident about his ability to have an impact on the men’s basketball team.

He was less assured about how he would do in the classroom.

With the support of one of the campus’s success coaches, he’s working hard both academically and athletically, and preparing for the challenges of his sophomore year.

“I wasn’t sure if I could be a college student,” said Ogelsby, from Kokomo. “Working with Coach Mike [Gault] make me feel like I’m on top of everything for school and gave me confidence. He has a saying, ‘Just keep everything in front,’ to do the little things like turning stuff in on time and held me accountable.”

Gault, who has been a coach since 2014, said building trust is what makes the program work.

“We share a lot of ourselves, because we want to have that relationship between student and coach,” he said. “They open up, and we become a successful one-on-one unit. It takes a little time, but we stick with our students and have a bond with them, and an accountability factor.”

All IU Kokomo students are eligible for free success coaching, and can start right from the time they enroll.

“Students of all ability levels can benefit from coaching,” said Kelli Keener, director of advising. “Even students who have been high achievers in the past may find college overwhelming. Our success coaches can help them start off on the right track or change course if they’ve had some challenges.”

Students may contact an academic advisor to request a success coach, or advisors may suggest the program. They are then matched up with one of the three coaches to begin collaborating about individual needs.

And according to recent history, it’s working.  

During spring semester, a group of 100 students who had been placed on academic probation for the first time were assigned a success coach. More than half accepted, and those who met weekly with their coaches had significantly higher GPAs – by 1.5 points – over those who did not.

“When students connect to a success coach, and stick with it, it’s clear that it’s part of an overall strategy,” said Christina Downey, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and student success. “They are making a lot of changes, and incorporating the coaches helps them sustain those changes.”

Jenny Sheets was able to build a solid foundation when she returned as an adult student.

“I hadn’t been in school for 20 years,” said Sheets, from Rochester. “I really had a lot to learn and catch up on, as opposed to students coming right from high school. My advisor recommended success coaching to me, and I jumped on it.

“Working with Coach Mike helped build my self-esteem, grow academically, and feel like I was doing a good job.”

Oluwatimilehin (Timi) Soyoola said success coaches supported her not only academically, but personally, as she came to IU Kokomo from Nigeria when she was 16. She struggled with procrastination, and Coach Carole Ogle pushed her to begin the semester by writing everything for every class in her calendar, including due dates for projects.

Soyoola has now earned an undergraduate degree in biology and is about to complete her Master of Public Management.

“I don’t have my parents here in the U.S., so Carole has been like a mom to me,” she said. “She helps me create goals, not just in class, but has helped me balance school and my life.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

More stories