"It was my freshman year at Walla Walla University, and I was scared out of my mind."
Rachael Coon, sophomore English major, remembers the transition to college last fall, and she credits the WWU's Freshman Success Program for giving her the confidence she needed.
"I had a few friends from academy, but other than that I knew nobody," she explains. "I was really connected with my community and church family back home, and I was yearning to belong to this new place. I wanted to feel like somebody besides my academy friends cared that I was at Walla Walla University. Then I was assigned my mentor, Tricia McCoy."
Guiding for Success
"Launched in 2007, the university's FSP program was developed to improve freshman satisfaction and success," explains Mel Lang, the program's director. "It pairs an experienced coach with every first-time freshman student to help the students stay on course. Coaches meet with their students weekly throughout the year, connecting them to campus resources and discussing personal, social, academic or spiritual issues," says Lang.
"Our coaches are trained to be a watchful and consistent presence that will empower students to succeed during their first year here," he says.
This fall there are nearly 400 students in the FSP, mentored by 35 coaches. All coaches have at least bachelor's degrees, and several have master's degrees and above. In total, coaches spent more than 4,450 hours with WWU's freshmen during last school year.
An Invaluable Ministry
"The effort to identify and train qualified coaches is worth it," Lang says. "Thanks to the FSP, WWU increased the number of freshmen who successfully complete their first year and continue their education. More importantly," Lang says, "students like Rachael Coon report outcomes far more valuable than increased retention."
"Meeting with Tricia every week became a time of acceptance for me," explains Coon. "She listened to me and related to what was going on in my life. She was someone who connected me with the community of Walla Walla, and made my first year here an enriching experience. Because of the time she spent with me, getting to know me, laughing and sharing, I felt valued.
"The Freshman Success Program is a great experience. The mentors in the program are people who aim to connect with freshmen and make them feel welcome. Their ministry in being a support and lending an ear to incoming freshmen is part of what makes Walla Walla University such a great place to be."
More WWU News box copy:
Fall Classic results and photos
Joe Galusha's distinguished lecture
KJV's 400th anniversary