Two of the scariest words for any student are “academic probation.” Hearing them, you might feel stuck, alone, or out of ideas. That’s where a program like Back on Track—part of the Student Success initiative at Governors State University (GSU)—comes into play. That’s where a struggling student can be mentored by someone like Marcin Kuruc and turn their semester around.
Kuruc has a BA in Business Administration from GSU, and he is about to receive his MBA this spring. His graduate assistantship involves working with students being readmitted after academic suspension through the Academic Resource Center (ARC). Sometimes he makes presentations to the workshops that the students are required to attend—Student Success puts on 70–80 workshops every semester—and sometimes he meets with students one-on-one.
Kuruc has been working in Back on Track for a year-and-a-half. In that time, he has gained insight into the different factors that can derail students.
“It’s not so much that they didn’t do well in class,” he says. “For a lot of them, it’s more about time management; they have jobs outside of school that interrupt their studies. Then there are factors like a family emergency, and they don’t show up for class. When a family emergency happens, they focus on that one thing, and then they get behind in school—they neglect to do the online discussion boards, and then one thing leads to another and everything adds up.
“So what I do is give them the advice, perspective, and confidence to be able to do things like email the professor ahead of time, or go and talk to the professor, find another way to turn in the assignment. I encourage them to stay aware of their deadlines. Maybe they need to drop that one extra class that’s one too many. The idea is to take action before you get a poor grade in the class.”
ARC programming is inclusive of all GSU students. The Academic Recovery Program helped Darcarius Brown, a freshman who was initially reluctant to seek help, get back on the path to graduation. He even got a job working in the ARC. Back on Track enabled Jasmin Eid to return to school and complete her Master’s in Computer Science after she’d been suspended for a year.
In addition to his involvement in Back on Track, Kuruc also works with students in the Save My Semester program. Before that, he served as a peer mentor in New Student Programs for freshmen and sophomores.
If it seems that GSU has an abundance of programs devoted to student success, it’s because the university stands by its core values and mission; students have the support of the entire GSU community from the moment they walk through the door.
Amy Comparon directs the ARC. She plans and implements Student Success programs. Hands-on and invested, she meets individually with each student who requires Student Success services. Comparon’s work got a tremendous boost this past fall when the university implemented Starfish, an online platform designed to facilitate communication among students, faculty, and advisors. Starfish is the basis of the new GSU STAR Student Success Network, funded by a Title III grant from the federal government. The new platform improves communication so that potential problems can be identified and addressed before they become actual, and actual problems can be addressed promptly and effectively.
Another advance occurred just this week, with the ribbon-cutting for the new Student Success Commons. The Student Success Commons unites the Office of Career Services with the Academic Resource Center, Writing Center, and Disability Services, creating a bridge for greater collaboration among the four departments. Support staff from the different offices will be cross-trained, and professional staff will be able to make referrals across departments more easily and efficiently.
The goal at GSU is to give every student what they need to fulfill their potential and graduate. Through the broadest possible range of programs and assistance, the staff and students involved in the Student Success initiative at GSU are, as the vision statement for the Division of Student Affairs says, devoted to “creating an inclusive, supportive, and engaged campus community focused on student success.”