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First Student Support Learning Academy Is Success
August 28, 2013

Twenty-four incoming freshmen received a rather intensive orientation from Walters State Community. Graduates of the college’s first Student Learning Support Academy are now officially students and using their new skills during the three-week session.
The Academy sought to improve academic skills, give attendees the chance to meet other students and become familiar with resources available at the college. The session grew out some brainstorming by Connie Earls, director of retention services at Walters State; Ann Bowen, assistant vice president of Student Affairs; Mary Little, coordinator of disability services and Helen Cox, information processing specialist.

“The ultimate goal is to increase retention and graduation among these students. The summer academy is just the beginning,” Earls explained. 

“Academy graduates will now have a close mentorship with a staff member of the Division of Student Affairs. As a group, students will also be involved in community service learning projects and student activities.”

This three-year program is funded by a grant from the Tennessee Board of Regents Office of Access and Diversity. Information gained from program will be shared throughout the state, as community colleges put a renewed emphasis on retention and graduation.

Students were selected randomly from a pool of candidates.

“Given the random selection, I am so excited that we have such an enthusiastic group,” Earls said. One student missed the last week for personal reasons, but the remaining 24 made it to every class on time. 

Even more impressive, those 24 improved their academic abilities after intensive classes in mathematics, reading and writing. 

“These students gave up a big part of the summer and worked very hard. For me, getting to know each one was very rewarding. I look forward to watching them succeed in the next two or three years here,” Earls said.
Tiffany Gray, an undecided major, plans to take full advantage of having an on-campus mentor.
“It’s great knowing that there’s someone to go to if you have a problem,” she said.
All students agreed that having time on campus to get acquainted ranked as the best benefit of the academy. 
If administrators have a choice, the Student Learning Support Academy will make an encore appearance on the campus next year. 

“I think this was a great program and I hope we’ll be able to do it again next summer. I wish we could increase the number of students,” said Ann Bowen, assistant vice president for student affairs and special assistant to the president on diversity. 

In the photo: Jessie Thackett of Bulls Gap, seated, and Megan Gibson, standing at left, of Bean Station, receive grand prize iPads from Connie Earls, director of retention services at Walters State Community College. The iPad give-away and an ice cream sundae marked the end of the college’s first Student Learning Support Academy.