Student Success Initiatives celebrates two years

Baylor faculty and students gathering to celebrate The Student Success Initiative's two-year anniversary. Josh Aguirre | Multimedia Editor

By Madalyn Watson | Staff Writer

The Student Success Initiatives (SSI) celebrated their two year anniversary as well as the future for their program on Friday, March 1. Although many students use their resources, they used the opportunity to spread the word about how the programs within Student Success Initiatives can help students at Baylor.

Students can learn more about what SSI can do for them through the Student Success Collaborative (SSC) or by visiting their offices in the Student Success Initiatives lobby in the east wing of the basement of Sid Richardson or

Staff and students celebrated over cake, ice cream and cookies from Lula Jane’s between 3 and 4:30 p.m. in the Student Success Initiatives lobby.

The Student Success Initiatives is one of the many services offered by the Paul L. Foster Success Center in Sid Richardson.

Student Success Initiatives consists of nine different programs that are all dedicated to helping students succeed: Baylor Summer, First in Line, New Student Experience (NSE), Pre-Law, Student Success Collaborative, Strategic Intervention, The Store, Transfer Student Success, as well as Veteran Educational and Transition Services (VETS).

Michelle Cohenour, the director of Student Success Initiatives, said that all of these different programs and services were not under one roof until two years ago.

“There’s so many overlapping populations,” Cohenour said. “So it made sense to bring all of those different offices under one umbrella.”

All of these programs were separate entities at first, but the students they helped and how they helped those students overlapped. For example, many students who utilize the Transfer Student Success program also utilize the New Student Experience program.

“Just seeing the team work together and the collaboration, how they support their students and work together on projects and programs — it’s just really good to see that energy and synergy for supporting those students in that way,” Cohenour said.

The College of Arts and Sciences Advisement (CASA) was in it’s location before they moved into the new advising wing in Sid Richardson two years ago.

“It worked out perfectly. The space was open, and it worked well for us. We were able to carve out a space for a conference room and the Vet Cente, and we recently added The Store last year,” Cohenour said.

The Store is a student food pantry that students can access any time Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The Veteran Educational and Transition Services (VETS) offers the Vet Center as a place for veterans to relax, decompress and be comfortable.

One of the students celebrating, Fairbanks, Alaska junior Sabrina Goss is a student veteran, transfer student and part of the First in Line program.

“My first semester, I was a little overwhelmed and just the whole like going back to school and being somewhere all day and then having a bunch of homework to do. It was a lot, and trying to balance that with a family,” Goss said.

When Goss began her studies at Baylor, she had taken a few online and community college classes, but the transition to being a full time student was difficult for her.

The VETS program gives students like Goss access to other students with similar mindsets and experiences as them, due to the fact that most students at Baylor are younger and straight out of high school.

“We’re somewhat an underrepresented community because we’re really small, like veterans in general,” Goss said. “So for [SSI] to be able to make something, specifically for us, I think, was amazing. I love that they continue to do that for everyone.”

All of the other programs like the VETS program give students a place where they are supported.

Mito Diaz-Espinoza is the program manager of First in Line, which provides resources for students who are first generation college students.

“Any student at Baylor who’s a first generation college student is already part of First in Line,” Diaz-Espinoza said.

Within First in Line, there are two different scholarship programs, a student organization as well as a network of faculty and staff that help students and answer any of their questions.

“Most of them were first generation students at one point themselves so they kind of know the student population and issues and concerns,” Diaz-Espinoza said.

Diaz-Espinoza said 17.4 percent of the Baylor student population are first generation college students.

“Chances are there’s somebody else in your classes that is one, but it’s not something you ask about or something that just comes up. So we want to make sure that they know there’s other students on campus,” Diaz-Espinoza said.

The First in Line program has been around since 2015, but it has changed a lot over time.

All of these programs within the Student Success Initiatives umbrella work together to help make students’ experiences better, address their social, emotional, transitional and academic concerns and help them succeed.

Cohenour said that she is so lucky to have a great team in the Student Success Initiatives.

“They all care deeply about students are innovative with their work, and they’re always looking for new ways to support students and advocate for them, and I mean I am lucky beyond words to have them on the team,” Cohenour said.