The NSM Student Success Team seeks to “engage and support students holistically, whether they could use some help reviewing their Titan Degree Audit (TDA), want general education advising, are looking to join an on-campus club, or need to connect with counseling and wellness services or the Diversity Initiatives & Resource Centers at CSUF,” says Tatiana Pedroza, assistant dean for Student Affairs at NSM.
From onboarding first-year and transfer students to keeping track of updates to departmental major requirements to hosting helpful career preparation workshops or sitting down with students in the event of a conflict or concern, the Student Success Team is committed to supporting students throughout their time at the college.
Pedroza advises NSM Student Success Center tutors and student assistants, as well as center programming. She advises the NSM Inter-Club Council – a student-led council comprising representatives from clubs across the college – and she frequently welcomes new students and advises students on Cal State Fullerton policies, as well as connects them with campus resources and referrals.
Chanda Ishisaka, NSM career specialist, offers career guidance, helps students find internships and apply to jobs and graduate or professional schools, and connects them with professional development opportunities.
Sam Barrozo, NSM graduation specialist, ensures that juniors and seniors are on the right track for graduation, guiding students through everything from Cal State Fullerton graduation requirements to general education advice to navigating academic notice and connecting students to campus resources.
Brittany Henry, NSM retention specialist, advises first-year and second-year students on how to navigate registration, their TDA, and general education requirements; advises students on academic notice; and connects students to campus resources.
Natalie Mir, NSM college adviser, supports first-year transfer students; offers general education, registration, and TDA support; advises students on academic notice; and connects students to campus resources.
The team also includes an NSM graduate assistant, who helps connect students with various college resources, including tutoring services and clubs and organizations, supports the team in developing and hosting events and programs, and handles NSM Student Success Center social media. Anais Perez (MS ’21) had this role from 2019 through 2021, and a new graduate assistant will be named in fall 2021.
Most recently, the Student Success Team has been running a summer program called Early Einstein, a precursor to the Think Like Einstein fall course, which is specifically designed for first-time and first-year students majoring in science or mathematics at Cal State Fullerton.
Early Einstein, according to Pedroza, is designed to familiarize new students with the college, its resources, and the skills essential to their success, like time management and stress management. Four of the five peer mentors working with the Early Einstein cohort will also be mentors for the Think Like Einstein course in fall 2021.
“Our student population is unique. Many of them are first-generation college students. They may be local or coming from far away. And many of them are anxious, nervous, or just have a lot of questions,” Pedroza says. “We want to relieve as much of that stress as possible and introduce them to the college without overwhelming them.”
That includes connecting them with peer mentors, other students who can better understand the new students’ perspectives and share their own, while serving as liaisons to Student Success Team members when those students need specific help or resources.
Coping with the COVID-19-induced shift to remote instruction over the last year-plus and a multitude of uncertainties presented a challenge for the Student Success Team. How would they keep students engaged?
“Having faculty share stories of their own academic journeys and undergraduate experiences during virtual ‘coffee or cafecito hours’ in the fall helped students feel less intimidated and more connected,” Pedroza says. “We were also involved in ‘study jam’ weeks and helped with Inter-Club Council-hosted online game nights, Jeopardy nights, a paint night in the fall, and a Lego night in the spring. Getting students together on Zoom, all doing the same thing at the same time and talking, helped things feel a little more normal.”
The Student Success Team was able to continue meeting with individual students and groups and set up tutoring sessions through Zoom. Graduate Assistant Perez spread the word about virtual campus events on Instagram and other social media to keep interested students engaged, and the team sent out weekly emails to keep everyone up to date on whatever was going on within the college.
As students prepare to return to campus, the team is also working on ways to make that transition as fun and engaging as possible.
“Many of our continuing students are excited to get back, and for the first-year students it’s really all about transitioning them to college. But it’s our second-year students who may have the toughest time because they’ve been part of the college but are unfamiliar with the on-campus experience,” Pedroza says. “We’re planning workshops that will give them the tools to manage that introduction to campus life and learning, and we’ll continue to share all the resources and connections to clubs and activities that will hopefully help us build community.”