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Success coaches aim to help students get off to a strong start

By Luanne Williams

“Well begun is half done.” The words of Aristotle can easily be applied to the philosophy behind Wingate University’s decision to assign new incoming students a success coach, starting this fall. Success coaches are tasked with helping students thrive, academically and personally, during their first year of college.

Chris Ziegler

“Our goal is for students to be equipped to continue their journey at Wingate after working with us during their first year,” explains Chris Ziegler, director of the Success Coaching program. “This would include improving their academic skills, earning credits that will keep them on the path to graduation, choosing the correct major, being involved in the campus community and understanding the financial side of college.”

Ziegler and four other coaches are working with students to create individualized plans for navigating their first year, plans that incorporate their interests and strengths and support their goals. They also help students accept responsibility for their decisions, familiarize themselves with campus resources and brush up on their communication and problem-solving skills.

“Our students have changed over time – they come from different backgrounds with different preparations and expectations of college,” says Brooke Mitchell, interim dean of general education and director of the first-year experience. “Our provost recognized the need for additional support for our students as they transition into college and has prioritized this program.”

Mitchell says success coaching doesn’t replace academic advising. Instead, it’s complementary, helping students better understand curriculum requirements and the need to work with their advisors to create their own course schedules.

She said success coaches use a proactive approach to challenge students to determine what success means to them holistically, not just academically.

A 28-year veteran of higher education, Ziegler has made significant contributions to student life and success since coming to Wingate in 2003, most recently working in academic advising before taking over the new program in August.

On her team are Keionda Sanders, a former middle-school teacher who completed coursework in student success while earning her master of science in higher education; and three Wingate alumni: Quaishawnda Byrd (’14), who has worked as an advisor and teacher at a charter school; Gordon Sprague (’18), a Marine veteran with a master’s in human services counseling/military resilience; and Alexa Linnell (’16), who has most recently been working with early-college students.

“I transferred to Wingate as an early-college graduate with 64 credits and still undecided about my major,” Linnell says. “There are several people I remember who helped me navigate my first months on campus and helped me to focus my goals into a degree and a plan for my future. It’s an honor to be able to return this encouragement and assistance to current students.”

The Office of Success Coaching is located in Alumni Hall on Wingate’s Academic Quad.

Oct. 13, 2021

Below, Wingate's success coach team, from left: Quaishawnda Byrd, Alexa Linnell, Chris Ziegler, Gordon Sprague and Keionda Sanders.