Freshman Success Coaches: Guiding Students Through Their Transition to College

Nov 22nd, 2017

Freshman Success Coaches: Guiding Students Through Their Transition to College

This story is featured in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s Freshman’s Success Coaches mentor students.

They graduated in May, the first cohort mentored by HPU’s student success coaches.

Recent graduate Caroline Tucker received support from her success coach throughout her four years at HPU and was recruited by Amazon.

They walked across the stage, received their degree in front of Roberts Hall and began careers or post-graduate work. And Dr. Beth Holder cried. She always does at graduations. But this one was different.

She knows these graduates. She knows how some of them had first-year hurdles, and time does fly. It seems like yesterday that HPU’s brand-new program she helped develop pointed them in the right direction.

It worked. Today, more first-year students are finding clear paths to success early in their academic careers because of Holder and her team of success coaches.

They anchor the front lines of student engagement, and they take on a raft of roles: academic advisor, mediator, mentor, drill sergeant and friend.

Holder created what she calls her “Dream Team.” Today, she has 13 success coaches to help students navigate the new waters of college life.

Holder’s program has become vital, a critical piece to a concept HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein calls “intentional congruence.” And it all began four years ago.

HPU’s success coaches don’t remember numbers. They remember names. Here are two: Brent Stringer and Caroline Tucker.

Like many from that first cohort, Stringer and Tucker have a story to tell.

Both landed jobs before graduation. Both developed strong relationships with their success coaches when they were freshmen.


The Journey of Transformation

Success coach Britt Carl would hear a staccato of stomps, and she immediately knew who it was.


“Briiiiitt,” Tucker yelled before entering Carl’s office. “I need your help!”

Every two weeks that first semester, Tucker saw Carl. Their 10-minute meetings turned into hour-long discussions, and every time, Carl helped Tucker deal with emotions and academic confusion about being a physics major. Tucker wrestled with failure. Her parents were both college grads, and her dad was a corporate lawyer. She was the youngest of two, adopted from China at 9 months old, and growing up in Arlington, Virginia, she had known nothing but success.

Until she hit college. She struggled. So did Stringer.

Stringer came from Hilton Head, South Carolina, and he majored in business administration. But he didn’t manage his time well. His dad, a home builder, gave him an ultimatum.

“Brent,” he told his youngest son. “If your grades don’t improve, you can come home and do construction for the rest of your life.”

Enter success coach Akir Khan.

Khan partnered with Stringer to design a schedule, and Stringer kept it all on his phone. He and Khan met almost every week, and Khan turned the white board behind his desk into an organizational tool.

In between meetings, Stringer called Khan. Khan quizzed him on progress. But he also gave Stringer hope.

“I know you’re down right now, but things will pick up,” Khan told him. “You’ll graduate and get the job you want if you stick to our plan.”

Brent Stringer, a 2017 graduate, built a strong relationship with his success coach that served as the foundation for his accomplishments and career placement after college.

Stringer has. After graduation, he moved to Atlanta and is working as an account executive for New Acquisitions, a sales marketing firm.

“To tell the truth, if I didn’t have Akir in my life, I wouldn’t have graduated,” Stringer says. “I am beyond thankful.”

Tucker is, too.

She stopped stomping toward Carl’s office. Carl says she heard what she calls “h

appy footsteps” instead. Tucker, who was an international business major, is now area manager for Amazon, the online retail giant. And Amazon recruited her.

“I know this sounds cheesy, but I didn’t know who I was back then,” Tucker says about her early college days. “But Britt taught me so much. She told me, ‘You’re worth it. You can go a long way. Just breathe.’ That meant so much.”


The Familial Fabric of HPU

When Qubein talks about the role the staff and faculty play on campus, he sees them as pieces to a big jigsaw puzzle. To make a puzzle work, he believes, all the pieces must fit together. To make HPU work, the faculty and staff come together to help students learn, grow and excel.

Qubein has a term for that: “intentional congruence.”

Student success coaches — Holder’s “dream team” — are a good example of that. 

Today, Holder’s team has moved from their covey of offices in Smith Library to the Mestdagh Creative Commons inside Cottrell Hall with no walls, bright colors and windows everywhere you look.

Holder’s coaches see students in this open-air environment. Taped to her office door is a three-word sentence she tells her coaches and the students they see: “We Got This!” 

“We are there when freshmen need it most,” Holder says. “I’m proud of that.” 

The coaches still see students they helped that first year. The students come back to give them updates, and like Tucker and Stringer, the students who come by laugh about what happened way back when. 

Carl knows why.

“They trust us,” Carl says. “They know we have their back.” 



View this story and more in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine: