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April 30, 2020 LA GRANDE, Ore. – In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mountaineer Success Team (MST) at Eastern Oregon University has expanded its reach to continue serving students from a distance.
“This pandemic has sped ideas and processes up,” EOU Student Success Coordinator Kathleen Brown said. “With remote-access, we saw an opportunity to envision how the MST program might look with online students in the future.”
The MST is a network of staff, faculty, EOU Foundation Directors and other volunteer coaches who support “students of promise” in becoming self-motivated and successful community builders. “Students of promise” are those who have the potential of being highly successful, but may need additional help navigating higher education.
Since the program began in spring 2019, it has yielded increased retention rates among students involved. Over the last year, 88% of students who participated in MST continued progress toward an EOU degree — 16 percentage points higher than those who chose not to meet with a coach.
Over 60 coaches across all departments volunteer to guide students through academic or personal obstacles. Coaches and students are paired strategically to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship. To offer different perspectives and additional support, the pairings are made outside of the student’s field of study.
The meetings are designed to be safe encounters, where students can talk through challenges they are facing. Coaches may connect students with the Financial Aid Office, the Counseling Center, tutoring groups or other resources. Brown said this additional go-to support person provides a reliable source of guidance and assistance when students are floundering.
Each pair has the freedom to choose when and where they meet. Some go on hikes together, attend athletic games or go to coffee. Temporarily, students and coaches are meeting via video chat to maintain social distancing.
“Students who are part of this group realize they are Mounties and that they are part of the EOU family,” Brown said. “They can see that EOU has a desire to see them succeed.”
In addition to the MST program, hands-on academic personnel support students through other retention programs. The Sense of Belonging Initiative is designed to engage students who were academically successful prior to spring term but might find the transition to remote-access learning difficult. The Athletics Department is also keeping up with student-athletes to ensure they are succeeding during this time.
In the transition to remote-access course delivery, the university developed a resource called the EOU Student Remote Access and Online Student Support. Available to every student, the resource provides tips and instructions on how to navigate classes virtually. Students have access to library resources, the bookstore, academic support, the Career Center, technology help, Title IX support and more.
For more information, visit the Mountaineer Success Teams website.
Written by PR Intern Briana Rosenkranz.
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