Student Quinn Barrabee credits SOU's University Coaching and Academic Mentoring program

SOU’s University Coaching and Academic Mentoring program brings results

SOU student Quinn Barrabee was nearly finished with a term paper but couldn’t quite get over the hump, so he turned to his academic lifeline – the University Coaching and Mentoring (UCAM) program and academic coach Jade Severson.

“Jade said that ‘If you come in first thing tomorrow, I bet we could finish it,’” Barrabee said. “I did just that and an hour later I finished and turned in my paper, and got an ‘A’ on it.”

The University Coaching and Academic Mentoring (UCAM) program is a small, closely knit campus initiative that provides one-on-one support to a group of roughly 50 students. It can take students from their transition into college all the way through to their capstone, and no program like it is offered at any other West Coast university.

“We help students in planning their term, breaking large tasks into manageable pieces, learning time management, organization and how to study, and in writing papers,” Severson said. “We also really focus on building a UCAM community – our students learn to support one another and even become roommates and friends.”

UCAM connected the dots for Barrabee – a Communications student with a focus on social media and public engagement – who just needed someone to keep him on track.

“When I first met Jade, it was like finding the last piece of the puzzle you have been working on forever and finally finding it,” he said. “There are no amount of words that I could say that convey how much she helped me, both academically and growing as a person.”

UCAM academic coaches are the key to the program, helping students write papers, facilitating study sessions, triaging late assignments and more.

Improved study skills and academic persistence are common among students in the program. An average of 95 percent of UCAM students over the past three years have continued their academic journeys at SOU from one term to the next, and they graduate at a rate 25 percent higher than the general student population.

Barrabee credits the incredibly positive relationship he’s built with Severson.

“I would go so far to say that without UCAM by my side I would be lost,” he said. “Thanks to them, my writing ability has improved significantly.”

All students are welcome at UCAM, but the program can be of particular help to those with disabilities such as ADHD, ASD and executive dysfunction. UCAM connects those students to SOU’s Disability Resources office for help with academic accommodations. UCAM coaches try to help all students find strategies that work for them, but are constrained by the program’s size.

“We would love to improve access to our program so that anyone who wants to participate is able,” Severson said. “Right now, all of our funding is generated from the fees that we charge for services, which has limited our ability to expand and offer more scholarships to students.”

Severson and the other UCAM coaches hope to diversify their funding model, but the program’s tight budget means that two of the three coaches are 10-month employees, making it difficult to find time for grant applications. That said, UCAM coaches prioritize helping students and keeping their doors open during the academic year.

“UCAM is not just a place to get help with your homework, it’s a community of many people who just want to help you (and) see you succeed in your academic goals and beyond,” Barrabee said.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer