‘We are barrier busters’: How Gettysburg’s Center for Student Success supports every student

At the Center for Student Success (CSS) at Gettysburg College, students can find collaboration, compassion, and the confidence to succeed throughout their educational journey. Created in January 2022, the CSS supports students throughout their journey at Gettysburg, from the summer before their arrival on campus for Orientation through Commencement. Working closely with faculty and campus partners, the center’s staff focuses on helping students achieve academic and personal success.

“We are barrier busters,” said Dean of the Center for Student Success Keira Kant ’95. “We work closely with students who have found roadblocks in their academic progress and provide resources and guidance so that students can move beyond the roadblock and ultimately persist, thrive, and graduate.”

Explore six ways the CSS serves students as they explore a breadth and depth of knowledge and cultivate enduring skills through their Gettysburg education.

Class of 2027 Move-In Day
Gettysburg’s Orientation student leaders help members of the Class of 2027 move into residence halls during Move-In Day.

Onboarding new students with transition programs

Gettysburg College looks forward to welcoming first-year and transfer students to campus each year. Many high schoolers await the beginning of their college journey, and the transition from high school to college also brings plenty of new experiences for them.

For Coleen Beddick, first-year class advisor, helping students transition to Gettysburg as smoothly as possible is her focus throughout the year—not just during the summer months. She and members of the CSS team devote many hours collaborating with departments across campus to provide resources for parents of new students and coordinate Orientation activities and programs that await students when they arrive in August.

“We are setting up students to be successful and grow in ways they cannot even imagine during their four years at Gettysburg,” she said, “from the ‘GETTing College Ready Zoom series hosted over the summer with our colleagues in Residential Education and assisting with the selection of their first semester of classes to seeing the smiling faces on Move-In Day and during the First-Year Walk. It is exciting to be part of a transformational moment in students’ lives.”

student at Center for Student Success
Gettysburg students receive advising support at the Center for Student Success.

Providing support for reaching academic goals

An essential part of Gettysburg’s promise to deliver A Consequential Education to every student is supporting students through the arc of their experience here through the Gettysburg Approach.

Gettysburg’s talented faculty and staff are here to help our students make the most of their Gettysburg education. In collaboration with students’ faculty advisors, the CSS assists students in planning and implementing their academic goals.

“We advise them in seeking creative curricular approaches that build on their academic strengths and find meaningful ways of solving any academic or personal challenges they encounter,” said Associate Dean for Student Success Hannah Sollenberger. “The ultimate goal is the successful completion of the academic program at Gettysburg and a promising future after college.”

student at Center for Student Success
Assistant Dean of Student Accessibility Theresa Hoover provides academic accommodations support to a Gettysburg student through the Center for Student Success.

Offering student accessibility and accommodations

Theresa Hoover, assistant dean of student accessibility for the CSS, works with students with disabilities to ensure they receive reasonable accommodations for academics, dining, and housing. Students who connect with Hoover may have had accommodations before they entered Gettysburg or may have developed accommodations needs during their time at Gettysburg. Additionally, she may work with students with temporary needs resulting from medical situations such as injuries or other circumstances. Hoover collaborates one-on-one with students to discuss their concerns and together determine reasonable accommodations to meet their needs.

“The work I do helps students eliminate barriers and provides equal access to learning and college life. Many students visit my office multiple times for assistance throughout their time at Gettysburg,” Hoover explained. “Working collaboratively with the other deans in the CSS, we connect students with the resources they may need to be successful. In addition to accommodations, we may connect a student with an academic coach. This person helps students with study strategies, goal setting, and organization of academic tasks. Students using this service develop skills that help them achieve success in their studies while participating in other areas of life at Gettysburg College.”

“We are setting up students to be successful and grow in ways they cannot even imagine during their four years at Gettysburg.”
Coleen Beddick,
First-Year Class Advisor

student at Center for Student Success
Assistant Dean of the Center for Student Success Renica Minott shares a light-hearted moment with a Gettysburg student at the Center for Student Success.

Helping students maintain their academic standing

The CSS works closely with the College’s Academic Standing Committee to review students’ academic standing each semester. This close collaboration between the committee and the CSS allows the CSS team to assist students experiencing academic challenges in their studies at Gettysburg.

For Renica Minott, assistant dean of the CSS, providing students with an Academic Improvement Plan can help them develop behaviors and create strategies to strengthen their academic performance.

“To help guide my discussion with students about their academic performance, I use a strength-based approach when reviewing the responses to a series of questions listed in the Academic Improvement Plan,” she explained. “The goal is having students not focus on being perfect but striving for continuous improvement.”

Sharing helpful student resources

The CSS strives to assist students facing concerns in and out of the classroom as early as possible. Using Navigate360, a student success technology platform, faculty and staff can submit Early Assists to inform the CSS team about students who would benefit from support. This feature allows faculty and staff to identify students who may be struggling with attendance or class participation, experiencing personal or financial challenges, or needing overall support.

“Submitting a concern early through Navigate360 allows the CSS staff to respond and offer resources to the student and circle back to the faculty or staff person who submitted the concern,” Kant said. “Advisors and other key stakeholders have a centralized, comprehensive view of their students’ journey to provide more coordinated, customized support.”

A student-facing app also provides students “equitable awareness of and access to important campus resources, empowering students to let us know if they need help by simply pressing a button on their phones,” she explained.

student at Center for Student Success
Dean of the Center for Student Success Keira Kant ’95 meets with a student inside her office at the Center for Student Success.

Fostering a support system amid evolution

Kant reflects on the services she and her colleagues provide to the Gettysburg student community. She acknowledges the work of Tamra Martin and Melanie Stonesifer, senior administrative assistants, who are integral to ensuring the daily operations and activities of the CSS are smooth and seamless for students. 

Kant likens this work to tending a garden: “Plants and flowers need water, sunshine, shade, darkness, fertilizer, and a little TLC to grow from a seedling to a mature plant,” she explained. “Sometimes, when a seed is planted, it has to work hard to get through the soil and persist through tough winters, dry summers, and flooding. It may need to be pruned or transplanted to a more suitable location to thrive.

“Students can be like plants and flowers—in need of a support system in the midst of their evolution from first-years to seniors,” she continued. “Those support systems look different for different students. Some may only need a little water or to be told where the water is. Others may need more specific guidance in addressing the challenges to which they are presented.” 

With support from the CSS, Gettysburg students can confidently navigate their college journey and thrive as they grow in the greatness associated with Gettysburg in all that they do here and after graduation.

Visit Gettysburg College’s Center for Student Success and empower your education today.

By Michael Vyskocil
Photos by Jason Minick and Kailey White ’21
Video by Abbey Frisco
Posted: 04/11/24