Student Success Center celebrates 10 years of academic achievement

ssc anniversay 2017

The Student Success Center is celebrating 10 years of serving the academic achievement goals of UAH students.

Michael Mercier | UAH

The Student Success Center (SSC) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is celebrating 10 years of serving the academic achievement goals of UAH students with a Sept. 13 reception at 10 a.m. in Salmon Library’s first-floor North Wing.

Begun in 2007 to fulfill the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), an accrediting body, the center was originally called the Academic Resource Center (ARC) and focused on UAH freshmen.

ARC’s mission was to provide a success-oriented, learner-centered educational environment designed to help students meet the challenges of achieving academic and professional success.

"The QEP committee surveyed faculty and students concerning factors that impact freshman learning and carefully reviewed the National Survey of Student Engagement Benchmark report for UAH," says Dr. Brent Wren, associate provost. "To enhance learning and retention, the QEP set four goals to improve freshman success."

  • Increase freshman learning by improving freshman study and time management skills.
  • Enhance the climate for learning within key freshman courses.
  • Enhance the climate for learning by increasing freshman engagement with each other and with the campus.
  • Increase freshman learning by increasing awareness and use of support services.

Now known as the SSC, today the center serves all UAH students, offering academic support programs that empower individuals to realize their potential as self-directed learners and professionals.

"In the last academic year alone, the SSC saw over 2,500 students and had almost 17,000 visits," says Valerie Johnson, tutor coordinator.

Collaborating with faculty, staff and students, the SSC develops and enhances programs, resources and services designed to boost student success and maximize academic and professional potential. The SSC consists of Academic Coaching, the Tutoring & Writing Program and Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS).

Academic Coaching focuses on academic and self-management skills. The Tutoring Program provides academic assistance in a variety of courses to students through one-on-one and small group sessions. The Writing Program helps students become more confident and successful writers through peer consultations that encourage writers to identify and develop their own writing processes. The PASS program provides peer-led group review sessions for select courses, where students get together with classmates to compare notes, discuss important concepts and develop effective study strategies.

"Over the past 10 years, we have changed the name, changed leadership, changed the location, changed the focus from freshmen to all students and changed the mix of programs offered, but the original mission of the ARC is still relevant today," says Dr. Wren.

Initially founded with two flagship programs, PASS and Peer Mentoring, ARC expanded after its first two years to support the entire campus following a rigorous assessment. By 2010, the name had been changed from the ARC to the SSC and the center was operating with a full complement of programs.

"We added professional academic success coordinators in 2008, added academic coaches and an Early Alert program in 2009 and made the Charger Success Course 101 (FYE 101) mandatory in 2010," Dr. Wren says. "In addition, Career Services was added to the SSC mix. These programs continued until 2016, when we began to expand core services such as tutoring and supplemental instruction, while scaling back or transferring others."

Dr. Wren says the center is "successful beyond anyone’s imagination 10 years ago," and two highlights stand out for him.

The first was the SSC’s required five-year SACSCOC QEP Impact Report in 2012, a detailed assessment of the outcomes of the QEP and a demonstration of the effect of the SSC on students at the university.

"Though we had done year-to-year assessments of each program, this report was the first full assessment that tracked and demonstrated the impact of the center," says Dr. Wren. "After preparing and submitting the report, everyone agreed that the UAH QEP ignited a university wide effort to enhance freshman student learning and retention. From two initial programs, an iterative process of assessment and improvement led to the creation of a wide array of academic support services for all students at UAH."

The second highlight was the relocation of the center from several scattered offices in the old Madison Hall to its current location in the Salmon Library.

"We took a largely underutilized, rundown space and converted it to an inviting one-stop shop for students," he says. "If you visit the center today you see a vibrant space with a buzz of activity of students helping students under the supervision and leadership of a professional staff that lives and breathes learning."

The ARC began with a small staff of one full-time director, Dr. Diana Calhoun Bell, one part-time staff assistant, Amelia Duke, and one graduate teaching assistant, Kellee Crawford.

"We hired nine peer mentors and 14 PASS leaders for fall 2007," says Duke, who is now the student success coordinator. "The department was in Madison Hall 136 and consisted of two offices and open space for everything else. My favorite memory is seeing how it has grown and changed over the years to our current space in the library and the growth of our student staff to 86-plus student workers!"

For PASS Coordinator Kristin Tunison, the best part has been watching the PASS leaders learn and grow in their roles and as people.

"The student workers in the SSC are exceptional, both in their academic ability and in their desire to help others. The PASS leaders genuinely care about the students they work with and get so excited when a student does well on a test or feels better about the material after a session," Tunnison says. "It’s an absolute joy to get to come into that every day. It’s especially rewarding when PASS leaders come and tell me how working with the SSC prepared them for a professional job or helped them decide their career path."

Seeing the success stories from the students who use the SSC and from the student staff has been rewarding, says Johnson, the tutor coordinator.

"Also, watching the center grow in both utilization and in the size of our student staff has been so exciting," she says. "We have broken multiple records the past few years, most recently reaching over 300 students at our end of semester event Tutoring Blitz."


Dr. Brent Wren

Jim Steele