Administrators are calling a new program to bring freshmen in contact with often high-ranking officials at the University a success, though students interviewed report their experience varied widely, depending on the commitment of the advisor they were matched with.
The Guide to Personal Success program, part of the Student and Academic Support Services department, is finishing its inaugural year as an initiative to bring together groups of four or five freshmen with administrators and campus leaders to provide mentoring and guidance during students’ first year at college.
“We were able to connect students to our community in a way that had not happened in the past, and we helped to transition students to GW and help them assimilate quicker,” said Brian Hamluk, the program’s director. “During the first semester alone, we were able to have thousands of individual contacts and meetings with students, including informal meals and get-togethers.”
The program was initiated to bring together administrators and students and to provide students with wide-ranging advice and guidance, Hamluk said.
In addition to meeting with students, guides served as a way to introduce students who would not have met otherwise and to assist students with problems on campus.
Administrators who served as guides also described the program as successful and said it allowed them to stay connected with students.
“I was able to get to know them as individuals and along the way helped several of them work through some issues, like financial aid, whether or not to join a sorority, GPA issues . I truly enjoyed connecting with the students on a personal level and had five great young people assigned to me,” said University Police Chief Dolores Stafford.
Stafford said she met with students at least three times and used e-mail to communicate throughout the year.
Michael Akin, executive director of international, government and community relations, also said he met with students several times during the year and said one of his students was able to attend a black-tie gala for a local business association at the University’s table.
“It has been a great way to me to stay connected to students and for them to gain personal connections in the administration,” Akin said.
Some students, though, described varying experiences with the program, depending on their interactions with GPS guides.
Colin MacDonald, a freshman, said his experience was positive and that he met with his guide around five times during the course of the year to discuss topics from academics to University services.
“I feel very lucky in having been assigned a very well-connected and experienced employee as my GPS, as it gave me a connection to the university’s upper echelons even as an entering freshman,” MacDonald said.
But Jaleesa Suell, another freshman, said she was disappointed with her experience with the GPS program.
Suell said she received and responded to one e-mail from her guide at the beginning of the year, but said her guide did not have meetings or send further e-mails to the group.
According to Hamluk, the amount of time guides spent with their students depended on factors such as the student’s involvement in the program and guides tended to have more contact with their students at the beginning of the year as students adjusted to the University.
“We had some guides meet with their students over 10 or 15 times during the year, and then we had some students who chose to only utilize their guide if something problematic arose,” Hamluk said.
Hamluk said he envisions the program continuing in the future and that the University is focused on making sure students take advantage of their relationships with their guides even if they do not have a problem they want assistance with.
“Their GPS guide can help open doors and connect them to campus and GW life in a positive way, in addition to helping them with issues that may came up,” Hamluk said.