Next time you talk to your son or daughter, ask them if they’ve had a chat with their success coach lately.
If they haven’t, they should.
CMU has an actual director of student success. It’s Jason Bentley’s job, along with a staff of success coaches, to make sure each student succeeds.
He shares some tips on how it all works.
“We work with any student, on any level, who wants to optimize their time at CMU,” Bentley says. “Which should be everybody.”
He describes it like this:
“If you move to a new city, you’d use the technology available to help you navigate,” Bentley says. “You might use a GPS or ask Siri to help you find a restaurant. You have a destination in mind, but you don’t know the best route to get there.
“We’re like a human GPS,” he says. “We coach students so they clarify their academic goals, determine a major course of study and graduate on time. We help students track the courses they need, and then outline the process, time and money needed.
“Coaching is ongoing,” he says. “We work side by side with students to help clarify steps to take immediately, next week and next month to make progress toward their goals. Coaching is highly personal and another example of how CMU puts students first.”
Maybe your son or daughter has logged 56 credits, but still hasn’t signed a major. A success coach will call them, sit down, talk about interests and the classes already completed, review options and help connect the student to an academic department to sign a major.
The office also does phone call and email campaigns. A recent one: “Fifteen to finish” reminds students that to graduate in four years, they need to take 15 credit hours a semester. Twelve or 13 won't cut it.
The sooner students graduate, the less they pay for education and housing and the sooner they enter the workforce or graduate school.
“None of us are good at everything all the time,” Bentley says. “People are going to struggle. College is supposed to be challenging. It's supposed to stretch you.”
When students struggle, Bentley wants them to call him.
“This week, when you talk to or text your son or daughter, ask them who their success coach is,” he says. “Ask if they’ve met with them lately. Parents are key supporters.”
He has some thoughts about that. Helping your son or daughter succeed means guiding them, he says — not doing things for them.
On a recent visit to church, Bentley listened as the minister talked about raising kids. One particular point stuck with him.
“He said, ‘We’re not raising kids — we’re raising adults.’ Part of raising adults is raising people who are capable, who can manage uncertainty, who can advocate for themselves, who can handle adversity.
“If you want to raise an adult who can do all that, you have to give them opportunities now to practice that.
“When I was in college, I begged my parents to let me come home,” Bentley says. “They said, ‘Let’s talk about your options.’ They asked me questions. Helped me think it through.
“If you’re raising an adult, you have to let them think for themselves,” Bentley says. “They need to learn critical thinking skills now. Listen. Affirm that you hear what they’re saying. Tell them, ‘That sounds tough. What are you thinking about doing?’ Ask them to discuss options.
“Sometimes they just need to vent. They don't need you to step in and try to take care of it. They just need to be heard.
“Parents can be the best supporters by saying, ‘Hey, we all struggle.’ There are tons of resources on campus. It’s OK to ask for help.”