by Stephanie Atti, Associate Director of Academic Advisement and Planning

Guiding Core Values and Principles
D’Youville’s student success initiative is driven by three core values: Student Advocacy, Career Pathways, and Financial Wellness and Literacy.  These guiding principles have helped shape the landscape for the next generation of students seeking to complete their undergraduate degrees at D’Youville.  Through a coordinated care network, students will be provided all the services needed to be successful and persist in their degree program, be career-ready upon graduation, and have accumulated as little student loan debt as possible.

During the 2017-18 academic year, D’Youville conducted a 9-month Student Success Ecosystem Study which focused on four main areas: Academic Advisement and Planning, Transfer Services, Work and Career Development, and a future Learning Commons.  Each team included key stakeholders including faculty and staff who reviewed current policies, conducted numerous study surveys and focus groups, and did research into both regional and national best practices.  As a direct result, the Student Success Center opened in August 2018.  The center is located on the 1st floor of the Bauer Family Academic Center (BFAC), and has essential services such as Academic Advisement and Planning, Career and Professional Engagement, Transfer Services, and Student Support and Advocacy.

What does this mean for faculty?
Beginning in fall 2018, all incoming undergraduate students are assigned an individualized Student Success Team.  This team includes a primary academic advisor, faculty mentor, career coach, and financial aid counselor.  Returning students who started prior to fall 2018 remain with their faculty advisor until they graduate from that program.  However, the Student Success Center is designed as a one-stop location and we encourage all students, faculty, and staff to stop by with any questions they may have.  If we do not have the answer we direct them to the correct person or office who can assist.

Student Success Team
This collaborative and innovative team will work to improve student outcomes through an engaging and intentional practice that puts students on a pathway to success from orientation through graduation. The utilization of shared notes on student’s Self-Service record allows for success team members track the progress through both the student’s academic program and any referrals made to any other support service within the coordinated care network. For any student that has been identified as “at risk” the student success team members will convene to discuss the best course of action utilizing case management practices.

Each team member will work closely with each other and have a particular area of expertise:

Professional Academic Transfer Advisors are in the Student Success Center full-time and are there to assist students with everything from course advisement and scheduling, to helping them navigate the college experience.  Advisors will also be able to answer questions about college and department policies and procedures. These team members utilize innovative strategies for supporting the timely degree completion of students while referring them to other support services within the network that can help students to overcome more specific barriers to success.

Faculty Mentors are professors within the students major, or area of interest.  This is a great way for students to connect with faculty outside the classroom and can spend quality time speaking with them about career plans, work on activities other than coursework (student clubs and organizations, faculty led research, creative activities, and inter-professional opportunities), discuss course topics, ideas or concepts, and review academic performance.

Career Coaches will provide specialized support in the area of career and professional development.  The Career Coach will assist students with career and major exploration, professional preparation, and employment information.  They will offer a variety of resources, tools, and activities to ensure that students are career-ready upon graduation. Career Coaching is a significant aspect of the coordinated care network model.

Financial Aid Counselors are trained in government and private resources for funding a student’s college education. They work closely with parents and students to outline a plan for paying for school, including personal finances, student loans, government grants, and private scholarships.

Next Steps
On January 10, 2019 the School of Arts, Sciences, and Education and the Student Success Center sponsored a mini-summit, facilitated by Larry Robinson of Partners and Robinson.  The event was attended by more than 50 faculty and staff and focused on the idea of transformational mentoring.  The goal of the day was to begin to develop a robust faculty/student mentoring program to complement what the primary, transfer, and career advisors are undertaking in the Student Success Center.

The positive and enlightening day was designed to help participants understand “what makes a good mentor.”  Some of the activities included participant storytelling about everyone’s mentor experience, either from the perspective of the mentor or the mentee.  Once the day concluded, a core team of eight people (equal parts faculty/staff)—Al DeCiccio, Stephanie Atti, Eric Miller, Ryan Miller, David Stewart, Denise Harris, Sharon Cudney, and Amy Yoder— met to transcribe the notes and develop major themes of mentorship:

Desire               Encourage                    Affirm                           Empathize

Wisdom            Opportunity                  Concern                        Engage

Time                 Create                          Communicate               Support

Challenge         Empower                      Believe                         Demonstrate

With Larry Robinson’s help, it was concluded that these themes could be funneled into three buckets from which we could extract possibilities for transformational mentoring at D’Youville:

  • Beliefs and behaviors
  • Opportunities for mentoring
  • Mentoring moments

Using these three guideposts, we proposed the following:

Goal: To position the idea of intentional and transformational mentoring alongside the three priorities in D’Youville’s Strategic Plan—the institutions belief for its future:

  1. Enriching Educational Excellence
  2. Enhancing the Student Experience
  3. Expanding Opportunity and Community Impact

Plan: The opportunity exists to start with the entering First-Time-In-College students in Fall 2019. D’Youville will meet all three of the strategic priorities by embracing the following transformational plan:

  • Establish the faculty/student mentoring relationship during “welcome week” by holding a Mentor Mixer (ideally, on the 6th Floor of DAC). At the mixer, faculty and students will meet and establish the relationship.
  • After the relationship is established, each faculty members will be encouraged to take the student to one of the local coffee establishments (e.g. Tipico, Perks, Verde, etc.). This is to facilitate a relaxed conversation during which they can get to know each other and develop an agenda for meeting and dialogue throughout the academic year.
  • Faculty mentors will be asked to use the Self-Service note system to summarize the action plan they develop with the student.
  • Throughout the year, faculty will share positive experiences with one another, while also learning best practices for transformational mentoring.
  • An end-of-the-year celebration will help us to determine what worked well and what improvements can be made in future iterations of the plan.

Once we developed this plan, and email was sent to all department Chairs asking them to solicit faculty responses to the following questions:

  1. Would faculty members attend a welcome picnic on campus the Sunday before classes begin to meet the incoming first-year students within their department? Would they attend a Mentor Mixer the first couple weeks of classes? Other ideas?
  2. Would faculty members be willing to share stories of their own best mentoring practices in an online forum (other than Teams), if available?
  3. If you chair a larger department, how would faculty members manage multiple mentees?
  4. Would faculty members be willing to meet with mentees during the first semester for coffee, breakfast, or lunch on-campus or off-campus, if they received a voucher to pay for it or reimbursement?
  5. How often would faculty members like to meet with their mentees during the course of a semester? year? Would the number of meeting times change each year as the student progresses through the program?
  6. Any departmental suggestions you would like to make that would help D’Youville establish a more purposeful mentoring program?

Once we receive the feedback, we will revise the proposal as necessary to meet the needs of the faculty mentoring.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Stephanie Atti at

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