Southwestern Adventist University’s mission is “inspiring knowledge, faith and service through Christ-centered education.” One of the best representations of how the University accomplishes this mission is through the Center for Academic Success and Advising, or CASA.
CASA helps students better understand what they learn in the classroom so they can not only write their exams, but also remember the materials and be prepared to apply them to their professional future! Whether a student is visiting the Center on campus or online, the team of “coaches” is ready to support their peers!
To begin, CASA inspires knowledge through academic coaching. Students are given the support and guidance they need to be successful in their classes. Whether it’s completing pre-calculus homework, studying for an anatomy & physiology exam, or coding a computer programming project, students can find help from one of the 24 coaches at CASA. The Center is open in the evening from 6-9pm, Monday through Thursday. Students can drop by and receive coaching, or they can schedule individual study sessions. Students are encouraged to join pre-exam group study sessions where they can go over tough concepts with their peers while receiving encouragement and direction from one of the coaches.
Associate Professor Joshua Michalski, who teaches finance and economics, finds that these group study sessions are particularly useful for students studying micro and macroeconomics. “Economics is so different from most other disciplines, and it requires a new way of thinking and looking at the world,” Michalski explains. “I’ve seen how the group study sessions guided by former students have been very beneficial.” Combined, there are over a hundred group or individual study sessions sponsored by the Center each week. The Center also provides workshops on college and career success topics such as developing effective study habits, resume building, and time management. All coaching and workshops are available to students at no additional cost.
Secondly, CASA inspires service by utilizing peer-to-peer coaching. The coaches at CASA are all current students. Renata Ocampo, the Director for the Center for Academic Support & Advising, explains that she personally vets each coach based on academic standing, requiring they have at least a 3.0 GPA, as well as professionalism. “Our coaches are exemplary students who are responsible, respected, and actively involved in campus leadership,” Ocampo says. Once the students are hired, they are provided with specific training on effective coaching techniques and federal guidelines regarding confidentiality. Ocampo also looks for students who have a heart for service. Josue Muñoz, a junior nursing student, is an example of one of those service-minded student coaches. Muñoz has been a CASA coach for two years and coaches difficult nursing subjects such as Anatomy & Physiology I & II, Fundamentals of Nursing and Gerontology, to name a few. “What I enjoy the most about being a coach is seeing the progress each individual student makes as the weeks go by, and it is encouraging to see the stress and anxiety leave the students’ faces after a successful study session,” Muñoz explains. He finds the work fun and fulfilling because he is able to help his fellow students while refreshing the topics in his mind to support his own academic and career goals.
Lastly, CASA inspires faith through providing emotional support and a place to belong. According to Stephanie Weidman, a senior elementary education major, CASA is a ministry and a place to find lasting friendships. She praised Ms. Ocampo, saying she has done a “fabulous job” with the coaches and describes them as “very patient” and always willing to offer “tremendous support.” When she first arrived at the university, Weidman didn’t know anyone, and she wasn’t sure how she was going to succeed. Weidman found the academic support she needed at CASA as well as “the greatest group of people” who eventually became her friend group. CASA is as much about the students’ emotional and spiritual wellbeing as their academic success.
During the COVID-19 outbreak this spring, CASA created an innovative and streamlined process to provide continued support to students online. These additions will also make the Center better prepared to support a growing cohort of SWAU Online students. Through the use of Microsoft Teams, students are now able to receive the support they need no matter where they are physically located. Thus, CASA continues its dedication to serve the students of Southwestern Adventist University.