Models of Excellence: Continuous support unleashes student success

Models of Excellence honorees' efforts involve multiple touch points and personalized attention

Making heads or tails of the many factors influencing student outcomes—while necessary—is daunting and difficult.

For one university, a single wagging tail is making a dent in several barriers to student success. Resident comfort dog Zoey gives some emotional relief to students living away from their family and pets.

In Zoey’s 40-plus-hour work weeks, she makes an impact in classrooms, residence halls and the counseling center, plus helps greet prospective students and more. Lest anyone forget how to get back in touch with her for more support—such as before a big exam—Zoey leaves a business card with every person she meets.

It’s hardly a matter of running in circles. In a survey of students who encountered Zoey, about two-thirds said petting or even just seeing the pooch relieved stress, anxiety and depression. She has helped students through tough times, such as when two students prepared to give court testimony in sexual assault cases.

Continuing supports—whether the efforts focus on all students or a specific vulnerable population—are key to sniffing out problems before they become major disruptions.

A Hispanic-serving institution’s Personal Achievement Contract program pairs students with mentors before freshman year begins. This honoree’s mentors continue to provide support wherever it’s needed—from academic assistance to the financial aid process. The mentors also help students choose the right internships and explore career options.

That post-college connection is a priority at another honoree’s campus, as well. A center for student athletes creates not just an individualized education assistance program right from the start, but also a career “game plan.” The goal is that each student-athlete will leave the university with a professional resume, cover letter and interview experience.

As so many Models of Excellence entries show, a vigorous commitment to student success involves multiple touch points and personalized attention. These initiatives continue to impress us with their individual approaches to reaching students. Read on for eight efforts that may inspire a new program at your own institution. Find all the winners in our Models of Excellence section. 

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