Inside the New Student Success Center: A Place for Conversations

by Sarah McLaughlin '23 on October 11, 2022


Many places on campus have experienced a facelift over the summer, and the second floor of the Phillips Memorial Library isn’t excluded. The space is home to the new Student Success Center, which includes academic advising, academic support, accessibility services, the Multicultural Student Success Program, and the Writing Center. Bryan Marinelli, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Academic Student Success, spoke about the merging of these services into one physical space.

“Now you can simply walk a student who needs a certain type of support across the hall,” he said, describing how staff would previously have to point students to other buildings. “We’re seeing the benefits of it already.”

One side of the center will be the new hub for academic advising, housing professional advisors for first- and second-year students in certain disciplines, such as psychology and biology, advisors for undeclared freshmen and sophomores, and advising support for transfer students. In addition, students who need general information or advice regarding degree planning, registration, add/drop, pass/fail, withdrawal from classes, or leaves of absence can find it here. These advisors can also connect students with study abroad and internship opportunities. “Construction may not be finished,” Bryan said. “But we are fully operational, and if all goes as planned, the place will look a lot different in the next several months. It really is going to be beautiful.”

Besides one-on-one advising, the center also conducts workshops on topics like time management, reading for DWC, and test-taking. The Multicultural Student Success Program, directed by Adebimpre Dare, provides programming to help ensure the academic, cultural, social, and emotional well-being of students. In general, the staff aim for the center to have a welcoming, “communal feel.”

Bryan noted how certain departments have heavier advising loads than others. This makes it challenging for faculty in those departments to spend quality time with their advisees. The hope is that moving some advising to the Student Success Center will not only relieve the pressure on faculty but also create more time for relationship-building between students and faculty-advisors. The center itself aims to provide “more holistic advising,” including check-ins for freshmen within a few weeks of starting their first semester and at midterms. “It’s not as if the advising was bad at the college,” Bryan said. “In fact, it was already quite good. We just knew it could be even better.”

Bryan also emphasized how he wants the entire Student Success Center to be focused on growth through open dialogue, not admonition. “This is a place where we have conversations,” he said, “not where we simply tell students what to do or how to do it.”

Regardless of educational background, many students face anxiety about asking for academic support, accommodations, or advice about fitting in on a college campus. However, the staff at the Student Success Center believe that it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.

“Don’t be afraid to take that first step,” Bryan said. “So many students are. And some don’t find their way to us until it’s too late.” 

Even students who don’t have documented learning disabilities and students who earn high grades in their classes can benefit from visiting the center. It is not uncommon for 60 percent or more of first-year students to utilize academic support services. “There’s something here for everyone,” Bryan said. “You don’t have to be lost. You can just come in and talk with someone about a paper topic, or a course concept, or an academic challenge that you are facing, or an interest that you would like to pursue. The people who work here are good listeners, and they are really good at helping students arrive at their own answers.”

Though we are only a few weeks into the semester, Bryan believes the changes are already paying dividends. Moving forward, the Student Success Center’s aim is to create more proactive advising and academic support programs for students, as well as more advising resources and workshops for faculty.

“This is a welcoming, open place with a tremendous staff,” Bryan said. The center hopes to see students of all ages and abilities taking advantage of these new resources and the talented staff now available to them.