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Grant funds success coach for 21st Century Scholars at IUK

Campus Life Mar 11, 2024
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KOKOMO, Ind. — Students in the 21st Century Scholars program at Indiana University Kokomo will receive one-on-one support from a dedicated success coach as part of a grant from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Kelli Keener, interim executive director of student success, said while IU Kokomo has offered free success coaches for many years, this will be the first time one is dedicated solely to this specific group of students.

“Participating in 21st Century Scholars is a great opportunity,” she said. “The scholarship covers eight semesters of college, but they have a lot to achieve each year. A success coach will help them with resources and provide an accountability partner to check in with to be sure they are staying on track to graduate.”

Michael Gault, better known as “Coach Mike,” has served as a success coach since 2014, and transitioned into his role with 21st Century Scholars students in December 2023.

He noted that many students in the program are first generation college students who don’t have a family member who has experienced campus life and can advise them. That’s where he plays a role.

“We listen to students and try to figure out what their concerns are,” he said. “We help them through the experience of being at a major university, meeting deadlines, making friends, joining organizations on campus.”

His goal is to meet with students as early as possible in their college careers, to set them up for success. Gault models use of a time management sheet to map out academic responsibilities, a planner, and the syllabus for each class, teaching his “keep it in front” philosophy.

“You have to keep your academics and your life in front of you,” he said. “If it passes you by, you don’t get the opportunity to be successful.”

Coming from high school, where classes are all day, to college, where they may be on different days a few hours at a time, learning time management skills is crucial, he said. Putting it down on paper shows where their responsibilities are, when assignments are due, and what time is available for studying.

“We help them understand the importance of attending all classes, completing assignments, being a good listener, and reading with purpose,” he said. “If a student is successful, I feel like I am successful. They understand their requirements and understand what they must do.”

Keener said the campus currently has about 200 21st Century Scholars, but she anticipates growth because of a new guideline that automatically enrolls eligible students without a parental application.

“IU invested in this grant because we want to be sure as our population grows that students understand how their scholarship works, and how to keep their scholarship,” she said, noting that there are minimum credits to complete each year, that they must submit the FAFSA form for financial aid each year, must be in good academic standing, and have eight semesters of scholarship to complete a degree.

“A success coach is a bridge for the student,” she said. “They can connect them with advising, student life, the career center, financial aid, and other resources. It gives them one person they know well that they can ask questions or check in with, and trust to help them.”

Students in the 21st Century Scholar program may find Gault in the Office of Student Success and Advising, in the Kelley Student Center. Additional success coaches are available to students not in the program, and may be contacted through advising.

IU was awarded nearly $1 million as part of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE) 2023 College Success Program grant. Gault is one of 12 full time student success coaches focused on 21st Century Scholars placed at all IU regional campuses, regional centers, and IU Online, according to Julie Payne Kirchmeier, vice president for student success.

“We are grateful to the ICHE for awarding Indiana University this important resource,” she said. “These success coaches will serve as both consistent and caring advocates for our 21st Century Scholars during their time at IU, and positively impact our scholars’ engagement, learning and growth. We appreciate our partners at ICHE for identifying this need, and we know this will truly make a difference for our students.”

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Chris Lowery said the commission launched its strategic priorities last year to address college enrollment, completion, and graduate retention.

“The College Success Program is one of our intentional strategic approaches to partnering with institutions to address the challenges in the education-to-workforce pipeline and amplify the impact of proven programs such as the 21st Century Scholars and Frank O’Bannon Grant,” he said. “This will remove barriers that especially affect first-generation and low-income students.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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