How student coach relationships give meaning to coursework

Understanding a student’s “Why?” can be a first step in nurturing their success.

At Rochester Institute of Technology’s Academic Success Center, staff and student employees work with students to find their intrinsic values ​​and inspire them to work in accordance with those values. In partnership with the Career Services and Cooperative Education Office, RIT students can explore their motivations to learn and work, as well as plans for a future of values-based living.

“Connecting what is going on intrinsically with students to their external demands and deadlines is where the magic is at,” says Glen Dornsife, coordinator of peer education and academic coaching at the Academic Success Center.

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Seeing the divide: For most students, their priorities lie in productivity and achievement, rather than in their own desire to work.

“The majority of the study tools and resources we provide are geared toward assisting students to be more efficient and effective,” Dornsife says. “Empowering students to just be more productive does not establish a habit of overall student well-being.”

Instead of prioritizing skills like time management and organization, Dornsife and his team prioritize the values ​​a student holds.

Identifying the core: To identify a student’s values, RIT’s academic coaches and workshops pose questions like, “What is most important to you?” “How do you define success and why?” and “What does your ideal semester look like?”

“These types of questions both elevate the conversation by making it more about their concerns or goals for this exchange, and, at the same time, ground their sense of being and doing, by connecting who they are and their values ​​to the concerns they bring to us,” Dornsife explains.

The office has used values-centered conversations in mentoring and coaching for about a semester and a half now.

From academics to career life: The theme of values ​​at RIT connects beyond the Academic Success Center and into the Career Services and Cooperative Education Office.

Career counselor Chris O’Connor focuses on connecting students’ values ​​to their career goals, he says. Workshops called “Conducting a Values-Based Job Search,” “What Do Values ​​Have to Do With Choosing a Major?” and related topics allow students to reflect on their career work and eventual impact on their communities.

“Many studies show that individuals who are engaged in work that aligns with their values ​​are more motivated and engaged at work and report higher rates of job satisfaction than their peers,” adds O’Connor.

The workshops address using personal values ​​in future work experiences, looking at future employers’ mission statements and of course connecting values ​​to academics in the present moment.

Together, the ACS and Career Services are creating a resource that integrates the themes the two offices have seen when talking about values ​​with students. The advice is aimed at helping students more easily identify what’s important to them and how they prioritize tasks.

Data needs: The success center’s peer-mentor program tracks students’ confidence and persistence before and after receiving academic coaching or participating in a workshop, but the team presently lacks data around values ​​conversations specifically.

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