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Student Success Academy expands, adds new coach and graduate assistant

ISSUED: 24 June 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University has hired another success coach and graduate assistant and is expanding the number of students the Shepherd Success Academy (SSA) works with, thanks to a $78,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Dr. Caroline Mitchell is the four-year-old program’s newest success coach, and Thomas Lang will serve as a second graduate assistant.

Mitchell comes to Shepherd after serving as town manager in Lake City, Colorado. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology and taught sociology for nine years at Western State Colorado University.

“I am excited to help students find their own voice in their own experience,” Mitchell said. “I hope to facilitate that experience for students so that they succeed in their lives and as a student at Shepherd.”

Lang is a 2019 graduate of Shepherd with a B.A. in secondary education who is currently earning his master’s degree at Shepherd in college student development and administration.

“My passion is to work with students and help them progress as individuals,” Lang said. “I hope to benefit the students I work with by helping them develop confidence not only within their academic abilities, but in adjusting to college life and becoming a more independent individual. I look forward to helping students and guiding them to find their path at Shepherd, which will provide each student with an opportunity to have an amazing experience here at the school.”

Students in SSA have weekly meetings with a coach who works with them throughout the first semester by creating a personalized plan to help them maintain good grades and positive relationships on campus. The program also connects students to key campus resources. The criteria for admittance include, but are not limited to, standardized test scores, high school GPA, along with intended major. The grant will allow the academy to accept up to 75 students, doubling the number who can participate.

“We are excited to be able to expand the program with our new coach and graduate assistant,” said Julia Franks, director. “They have a new set of challenges and opportunities working with an increased number of SSA students who are coming in with new challenges of ending high school and closing that chapter so differently than they expected and needing more support transitioning into college. This new coach comes with a strong background assisting others in a caring and compassionate way, while being a mentor and teacher. Both of our new graduate assistants and coach are ready for a challenge as we continue with virtual meetings and creating bonds.”

“We’re grateful to the Benedum Foundation for this opportunity to bring Caroline and Thomas on board this year,” said Hannah Williams-McNamee, success coach. “Supporting students is always the top priority, and we’re ready to adapt and innovate with their added perspective and insight, which feels especially meaningful for our team in this moment.”

The Shepherd Success Academy works closely with other departments on campus, such as the TRIO Student Support Services program, faculty, staff, and others to ensure that all students who need support are connected.

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