Creating Pathways: Q&A With Student Success Center's Billie Streufert
Welcome to Augustana’s new Student Success Center.
We sat down with executive director Billie Streufert to learn more about this new initiative.
Q. What’s the mission of Augustana’s new Student Success Center?
A. The Student Success Center is a central place for career and academic support services – a hub for educational and vocational engagement. We empower students to discover and achieve their academic and professional goals from the point of entry to graduation and beyond. By partnering with faculty and other campus offices we provide students with the support they need to learn, develop and make the most of their Augustana experience.
Our dedicated staff helps students make informed choices regarding their major or career; access an inclusive environment that permits them to learn; develop dynamic strategies to maximize their learning in the classroom; locate opportunities for relevant hands-on learning; and secure meaningful employment or admission into graduate school.
Q. Talk about the different ways the Center serves students, alumni, the community and employers.
A. One of the things I like most about the Student Success Center is that we live with a foot in many different worlds. From the point of entry we help students discover their passion and transition seamlessly into the college environment. When it comes time to launch their career, they have secured a variety of practical experiences – from internships, research, service-learning, relevant employment, campus leadership – that have prepared them for life after Augustana. Our commitment to their success does not end when they graduate, which is why we continue to provide career coaching to our alumni as they advance in the field. Many alumni also stay in touch to mentor students and advertise job openings with us.
As we form these ongoing relationships with both students and alumni, we have the joy of sharing their story and background with employers who are eager to connect with the talent at Augustana. We also actively reach out to these organizations to build mutually beneficial partnerships and better understand their workforce needs, which we then share with faculty to inform our curriculum.
Q. The Strategic Plan was specific in outlining a desire to create a Student Success Center. Talk about why this is such an important endeavor for Augustana today.
A. Augustana has always been committed to success, but we realized this was especially paramount given the flattening nature of organizations. Graduates and alumni are finding an increasingly competitive job search, particularly because they are no longer just competing with the individuals in their community, but must now out-perform their peers around the nation and globe. In response to this rapidly changing labor market, we invested in our resources and the career development of students.
When we benchmarked our community to that of other colleges during our strategic planning, we felt fortunate. Compared to other urban areas, we are located in a growing, award-winning city that offers an appealing quality of life and vibrant hands-on opportunities. We wanted to engage students with this community and its organizations, not only to make students’ curriculum come alive in the real world and prepare them for life after graduation, but also to embody our value of service. We wanted to celebrate and affirm our commitment to educating the whole person – our distinct desire to prepare graduates to live lives of purpose, leadership, and service for the common good.
Our desire to help every student graduate also propelled us to act. Augustana has always exceeded national retention rate averages for private liberal arts colleges, but that was not good enough for us. We dedicated ourselves to ensuring that every student had the resources to thrive, persist, and be transformed into lifelong learners. This motivated us to provide additional individual support to struggling students, launch new events, such as the Sophomore Retreat or Experience Expo, and reimagine services, such as tutoring and accessibility services. In this regard, the Success Center’s mission can be best summed up by our motto, “Enter to Learn. Leave to Serve.”
Q. Tell us about the Student Success Center team.
A. Kaari Speer and Todd Alberty plan various events and provide individual support to students who have questions about learning strategies.
Jody Nitz supports employers or alumni who are interested in recruiting at Augustana and also helps students obtain relevant part-time employment.
Mary Toso serves as the director of internships and employer partnerships. Working closely with the faculty, she helps students couple their strong academic background with hands-on experience and facilitates seamless connections between employers and our educated workforce.
Susan Bies, director of accessibility and academic support, is dedicated to creating inclusive, accessible learning-living environments. She works with students who have disabilities and also oversees the comprehensive tutoring offered in partnership with academic departments.