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Academic Coaching Program Offered through Office of New Student and Retention Programs

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 14:42pm | By: David Tisdale

An initiative that provides focused support for first year, first generation freshmen and transfer students at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is designed to make a positive impact in their pursuit of academic and career goals.

Academic Coaching, a service of the USM Office of New Student and Retention Programs (NSRP) that is offered in the fall and spring semesters, helps these students complete the semester in academic good standing, resulting in increased student retention for future semesters and graduation rates. Students may apply to participate for multiple semesters; priority is given to students who have not participated in the program previously.

Student applications for the program are sought at the beginning of each semester, with the goal for the initial meeting between students and coaches to occur within the first two weeks of class meetings.

“We hope the program provides students with a touch point on campus to get both academic and personal support,” said Katie McBride, director of the NSRP.

The program was initially created to provide support for first year, first generation freshmen who could benefit from additional support and development to be successful in a higher education setting. Any student can apply, but priority is given to first-semester freshman and transfer students, as well as first-generation college students.

Coaches serving the program are either members of USM faculty, staff, or graduate students, and are asked to work with at least two students per semester. Training for the coaches is offered through NSRP, and includes a discussion of what the sessions should look like, how to document the conversations, and how to offer support.

Coaches given training on two key assessments – the Learning and Studies Strategies Inventory (LASSI) and StrengthsQuest. These assessments are then used by the coach and student to identify strengths, and create goals for the semester based on their LASSI results.

Approximately 125 students per semester have taken part in the program for the past two semesters. Students who complete all four of their meetings with their academic coach are eligible for a $200 Barnes and Noble Textbook Scholarship for the following semester.

McBride said future plans for the program include expansion through incorporation of national best practices in academic coaching. “We hope to secure certification by one of the two national academic coaching organizations,” she said.

Alyssa Smokes of Gulfport, Mississippi, a sophomore mathematics major at USM, said she benefited from the participating in the program by gaining tips about managing time, study habits, and maintaining the full college experience.

“In each meeting with my coach, we talked about ways to utilize and expand my strengths in leadership roles, and implement them into my daily life, and I loved how free I felt to talk about things that I want to transition into as a person, instead of just covering general information,” Smokes said. “It was an experience that has helped me improve my relationships, academics, and myself as a person."

NSRP is housed in the USM Office of the Provost. For more information, visit