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Guiding the Way

Student navigators busy charting successful paths
Story Series
Action: Racial Justice and Equity

It was her senior year at Bridgewater State University, and she needed to complete five classes to graduate. However, the stress of balancing a busy schedule was becoming too much, and Hanice Andrade, ’22, was questioning whether she could handle it all.  

“I was really about to give up on everything,” Ms. Andrade said.  

That’s when Executive Director of Student Success and Equity Interventions Cecilia DeOliveira stepped in and introduced Ms. Andrade to BSU’s Student Navigator Program.  

Funded through an anonymous grant intended to promote BSU’s efforts to close equity gaps, the program is in place to support students who can benefit from additional assistance.  

“The role of the student navigator is to listen to our students to learn from them what obstacles and barriers are keeping them from succeeding at BSU,” Ms. DeOliveira said.   

To help Ms. Andrade better manage her hectic schedule, Ms. DeOliveira sat down and talked with her, and together they came up with solutions. 

“It made me feel warm inside that someone actually cared about my well-being, my mental health. She took the time to listen to my problems and help me find resources,” Ms. Andrade said.  

That extra layer of support inspired her to continue with her studies. After graduating last year with a degree in anthropology, Ms. Andrade is now applying to master’s degree programs.  

“The Student Navigator Program really focuses on you,” she said. “It helped me not only find the resources I needed but also pushed me in a positive way. Particularly for students of color, to have this resource is huge. They stretch out their hands for us, they see us ... they helped me find success on a path I was struggling with.” 

Iris Lapaix, ’15, returned to her alma mater two years ago to work as a student navigator. She said helping students find solutions to roadblocks has been rewarding. 

“Being able to tell a student ‘You’re all set’ means we collectively did all we could to ensure the barrier is no longer stopping them from progressing in their BSU journey,” she said.  

Last July Ellie Cooper, ’22, was hired as a student navigator. Being a recent graduate, she is familiar with some of the obstacles faced by current students.  

“When you come to college, you often don’t know where to start. It can be intimidating,” she said. “We serve as a direct contact person to help point them in the right direction. We are a listening ear for students, making sure that they are heard. Students need to genuinely feel they have a support person.” 

It’s important to note that student navigators do not replace supports already in place at BSU, but rather show students all the opportunities that are available, said Dr. Sabrina Gentlewarrior, vice president of student success, equity and diversity. 

“Student navigators provide warm handoffs to campus-wide experts.  They help students find and identify the office or person that is best positioned to meet their needs,” Dr. Gentlewarrior said.  

And while many of the students who receive support are directed to student navigators by faculty or staff, students are always welcome to stop by the office, located in Boyden Hall, room 211.  

“Any barrier, be it big or small, that may make you feel like you have no idea how to keep going, allow a student navigator to help you through it,” Ms. Lapaix said.  

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