Innovative partnership between the REVUP MONTANA Consortium and InsideTrack is improving student persistence and generating valuable insights for administrators
Cindy Anderson understands the value of coaching, from both sides. As the single mother of a Special Olympics athlete, she coaches her son to perform at his best. She also works with a success coach to keep herself on track as she pursues her Health Information Technology degree full time while maintaining a full time job. The success coach is provided by the college she is attending, Great Falls College Montana State University.
“Given everything going on in my life, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed,” says Anderson. “My coach has empowered me to keep going. He worked with me to improve my time management and prioritization skills, and to break down large objectives into manageable tasks. Most importantly, he’s enabled me to recognize my own strengths and the power I have to help myself and others. Now, I regularly talk with my son about prioritization, procrastination and other issues that affect his success and mine.”
The coaching program at Great Falls is part of a partnership between the RevUp Montana consortium and InsideTrack, a leading student success organization. Other RevUp Montana member institutions participating in the program include City College Montana State University Billings, Missoula College at University of Montana, Montana State University Northern, and Flathead Valley Community College.
In its first year, the program is already improving student persistence rates at all of the participating campuses, with some campuses seeing seven to eight percentage point gains.
“The retention data show that coaching makes a difference,” says Dr. Camille Consolvo, Chief Student Affairs Officer at Great Falls. “Often, students won’t ask for help, so you need somebody proactively reaching out to them and offering to assist them in reaching their goals.”
RevUp Montana member institutions are also gaining valuable insights on the student experience. For example, the program has identified widely varying reasons for dropouts across the five campuses. It also uncovered a general need to better support students in balancing work and family commitments with their academic responsibilities, as well as the need for enhanced technology training and support, particularly for students pursuing online degrees.
Brandy Tannahill, a Research Technician for an agricultural contract research organization (CRO) who is pursuing a degree in Agricultural Operations Technology at MSU Northern is also thankful for the coaching program. “It’s wonderful to have a coach who is focused on me not just as a student or an employee, but as a complete person,” says Tannahill. “She is a sounding board, a source of objective advice, a knowledgeable guide supporting me in navigating my path. She doesn’t just work with me to address what’s going on in terms of my college career goals; she also helps put those goals in perspective with my business career and life goals to better inform my decisions to meet those ends.”
According to Sarah Eustis of InsideTrack, who manages the coaching program, “Montana students are fiercely independent and committed to making it on their own, but when they are able to open themselves up to assistance from a coach, they find tremendous strength from having an objective partner support them in getting the most from their academic experience.”
Asked about the process of integrating the InsideTrack coaching program into the institution’s existing student services, Dr. Consolvo says, “Some of the advising staff were concerned at first, but now they think having a second person working with the students from a different perspective is great. They see it as a ‘value add’ to what they are doing and a signal to students that we care deeply about their success.”
Eustis agrees that the relationship is extremely strong. “It’s clear that there is deep dedication on the part of the faculty and staff and the RevUp Montana institutions to do everything they can to support student and institutional success,” she notes. “It’s humbling and amazing to see how much effort they put into supporting the coaching program given everything else on their plates.”
As the partnership enters its second year, all parties are looking forward to expanded success.
About RevUp Montana
RevUp Montana is a workforce project supported by a $25 million dollar grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. RevUp Montana creates short-term degree, certificate and apprenticeship programs that lead students into high-wage, high-demand jobs in Montana. Filling these jobs with skilled, experienced workers will help increase employment, strengthen Montana businesses, and grow our economy. Learn more at http://revupmontana.com.
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