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February 11, 2008
The Paul L. Foster Success Center earns raves, helps all students
By Randy Fiedler
After a busy semester in their new home in the geographic heart of campus, staff of Baylor's Paul L. Foster Success Center welcome the improved opportunities to better serve all students. An increasing number of students, representing all levels and programs within the University, use the Center's services to overcome learning obstacles, raise academic performance and overcome learning obstacles.
"We've seen a significant increase in traffic, with many students just dropping in the Paul L. Foster Success Center," said Brandon Miller, assistant vice president of student success. "We also have seen an increase in regard to faculty coming in the newly renovated facility and walking through to see what services are offered and find out how they can partner with us to help their students succeed."
Built for success
The Success Center's five administrative departments serve diverse needs across Baylor's student population:
The Office of Academic Advisement
helps first-year students develop academic plans and clarify personal goals through academic advising;
The Office of Career Counseling
offers students seeking help making career choices the tools they need to better understand their strengths and interests;
The Office of Career Services
works with students who are seeking internships and full-time employment following graduation from Baylor;
The Office of Academic Support Programs
uses academic counseling, mentoring and advising on study strategies to increase the classroom success of students struggling academically or students enrolled in historically difficult classes who need group support to gain confidence; and,
The Office of Access and Learning Accommodation
provides services to students with documented disabilities to help them succeed academically.
"The Success Center is not just a place where students who are struggling academically go for assistance," Miller said. "It's also where good students go to become even better. The help and personal attention students receive here can mean the difference between a B+ or an A."
Miller said by hiring some of Baylor's most academically gifted students to act as tutors, the Center offers invaluable assistance to students needing help with course work and gives its tutors opportunities to learn and grow by teaching others.
Move to the center
Although the five departments of the Success Center often work in tandem to advise students, until recently a student had to travel all across campus to access all the services the Center offers. The Success Center administrative offices, along with the offices of academic support programs, career counseling and career services, were located in Robinson Tower. Academic advisement, meanwhile, was located in Morrison Hall, while the Office of Access and Learning Accommodation was tucked away inside the Speight Office and Parking Facility.
That all changed when Baylor alumnus Paul L. Foster of El Paso donated $3 million toward renovating the Sid Richardson Building to become the centralized location for the Success Center now bearing his name. Renovation began in summer 2006 and the Center relocated to Sid Richardson with the start of the fall 2007 semester.
Miller said he and his staff promoted the changes prior to the move.
"We spoke to the incoming students and their parents at summer orientation and elsewhere, letting them know about the Center. We've also had several professors bring their classes here for individualized tours," Miller said. "We met with many campus leaders and brought all of the student leaders from the various residence halls through for tours, and a number of the Baylor schools also came through for tours."
Change for the better
The changes that have resulted from combining all five Success Center offices in one central location have been significant. Joyce Miller, director of academic advisement, said she's seen a marked increase in the number of students coming in for advisement since her office moved to Sid Richardson from Morrison Hall.
"One of the most common responses we have been getting is, 'Where has the Success Center been before?.' We did exist, but we were in five different places, and people did not truly understand the concept of the Success Center until we were under one roof," she said.
One of the biggest advantages of the Center's reconfiguration is being able to offer students needing various services the convenience of "one-stop-shopping."
"Students may come here for one need, but they can also take care of other needs while they are here," Joyce Miller said. "We all refer students back and forth as necessary. For example, now when our office refers students to career counseling, we can just walk them across the hall instead of asking them to go to another office across campus."
Pat Weaver, director of career counseling, agreed that the current setup is ideal.
"We have been so pleased with the move because students can use their time better now in coming to us," she said. "When we were in Robinson Tower we had a lot of counseling times left open in the morning because it was difficult for students to get to us. Now we have almost all of our morning spots taken."
That ease of access to the Success Center has resulted in increased numbers of visits to career counseling in fall 2007.
"For example, this past October we had 529 appointments, which was 100 more than we had that month in 2006," Weaver said.
The renovated Sid Richardson Building has proven to be a better location for the students with disabilities who use the services of the Office of Access and Learning Accommodation, formerly located in the Speight Plaza Office facility. Among other services, students who are a part of the OALA program may receive equipment to help them record classroom lectures or enlarge text to accommodate vision problems, or may use the OALA program to allow for test taking outside the classroom setting.
"Before, we had our main offices in the Speight Plaza Office facility, with a makeshift testing center in Marrs McLean Science Building," said Dae Vasek, OALA director. "In that old testing center, students were in a small room with 20 other people, so many times it was less stressful for them to stay in class instead of coming to the center. Now, we have individual testing rooms where students feel more comfortable, and as a result we are giving more than 500 exams a month. That's almost double the number we gave in the old facility."
Vasek said another reason the Sid Richardson location is more popular with students with disabilities is that it's easier to enter and exit.
"We have automatic door openers on our end of the building on both sets of doors, so students are able to come in and out easily," Vasek said. "Before, students had to use internal doors that were hard to enter through."
Students taking advantage of the many services offered by the Success Center are overwhelmingly pleased by its relocation.
Connor Schaars, a Coppell freshman, received academic advisement in the Center and was pleased with the results.
"The advisement session helped me a lot. My advisor not only made me feel comfortable with asking questions, she helped me pick out the exact classes that suited me," he said. "I would recommend the Center to any student who has questions or problems. They will take care of you there and put your mind at ease."
Houston sophomore Leah Saldivar used the Success Center when she needed advice on how best to study and take tests.
"I think the Center's strongest asset is their mentors. They are always available to talk to, and they can point you in the right direction with whatever need you have," she said.
Aaryka Matte, a Minnesota sophomore, has taken advantage of the free tutoring services available to students through the Success Center.
"The Success Center has knowledgeable people that are very willing to help you," she said. "The tutoring I received helped me do a whole letter grade better on my chemistry test. It's a great service that people should take advantage of."
Brandon Miller said he's pleased that having all five departments under one roof makes it easier for students to take advantage of what the Success Center can offer them.
"Our goal is to meet the academic and personal needs of Baylor students at every point along their individual pathway to success," he said.