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Remotely Engaging

Academic Achievement Center staff ups its game during difficult times

In a year filled with obstacles, the Academic Achievement Center (AAC) has worked with students to make sure supports remain in place for their continued success.

“When we sat down and thought about the challenges students are facing, we talked about how to make ourselves more accessible to students online and also make sure we’re communicating and letting everyone know we are still here, we have the supports you need,” said Lauren Folloni, AAC executive director.

There have been many adaptations. Group orientation and in-person meetings transitioned to one-on-one advising and remote coaching sessions. Staff had to develop new communication strategies, using technology like the Bridgewater State University mobile app. New supports were added to help students with time management and online strategies.

“We had to learn all new technology and resources,” Folloni said. “We literally up and moved online overnight, there was little time for students to prepare. Our job was to learn what it means to be an online student and how we can continue to help students succeed.”

For Kerrie Shapiro, ’21, a sociology major who has worked at the AAC as a peer-mentor for the past two years, one of the biggest challenges was helping incoming freshman get acclimated at a distance.

“With (some of) the freshman at home, there was a feeling of disconnect, of not being part of a college community. They might only get to know their professors and mentors” and no one else, she said.

With that in mind, Kerrie adjusted and found ways to introduce them to BSU and all the university offers. That included helping them learn about some of the school’s groups and clubs.

“I would ask what they like doing and help them reach out to the appropriate club,” Kerrie said. “I showed them that even though things are almost all online, there are still opportunities to meet people.”

According to Jolie Streeter-Duczkowski, ’21, who serves as a mentor in the AAC’s second language services team, working online hasn’t been all bad, in fact, it revealed some advantages.

“The most convenient part of working online is that if something comes up with scheduling, it’s easier to find a better time that works for both of us. Working on campus (and in-person) you are sometimes limited to what time you can meet,” she said.

Overall, it has been the staff’s dedication to student success as to why things have gone well this year, Folloni said.

“This was a learning curve for our staff. We had to learn new technology, find new resources while staying on top of COVID-19 updates. Our staff’s willingness to go above and beyond, to make sure students still had what they needed in order to continue with their success, has made it all possible,” she said.

Ultimately the AAC’s hard work has paid off.  A recent survey of new students’ advising experiences shows that an overwhelming 96 percent said they were satisfied with the support they received.

“The support is here, we have it, come get it,” Folloni said.

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