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College Students Say Support Outside Class Is Key to Success

Karen Apricot
Creative Commons

Eric Vargas didn’t need help with his academics. He needed help, he said, finding himself.

"You don’t come onto campus just to get a job, you come on to campus to find yourself, so what are the resources that are going to help you do that," Vargas said at a conference held by the Center for Higher Education Retention Excellence at Central Connecticut State University.

Vargas and several college students told the audience of educators that the key their success is connecting with a professor or administrator on a personal level. 

Vargas recently graduated from CCSU, where he got his bachelor’s degree in music. He says what helped him was the college’s Healthy Fellows/Man Enough Support Initiative, a campaign to provide health and wellness services for college men.

"We have a clinical counselor and the director of admissions here on campus and they spend their time outside of their job description to connect with us," Vargas said. "That is so important."

Carol Ortega is a nursing major at the University of St. Joseph. As the first in her family to go to college, she said it’s important that counselors and professors show their human side to students.

"You guys can’t ask us to put our walls down if you guys aren’t either," Ortega said. "That's really powerful for me."

Social and emotional well-being has become an issue of growing concern. It’s led to programs such as the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, as well as proposed federal legislation that would provide money to train teachers on how to incorporate social and emotional learning into classroom lessons.

“Until recently, nobody really knew that emotional intelligence was a hard skill,” said Yale's Mark Brackett in an interview withWNPR earlier this year.

“This work should be integrated into teacher preparation, but also every school in our opinion should be responsible for adopting an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning,” Brackett said.

Both Vargas and Ortega say that having social and emotional support outside of the classroom has been key to their success as students. 

David finds and tells stories about education and learning for WNPR radio and its website. He also teaches journalism and media literacy to high school students, and he starts the year with the lesson: “Conflicts of interest: Real or perceived? Both matter.” He thinks he has a sense of humor, and he also finds writing in the third person awkward, but he does it anyway.

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