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Students Support Services wraps up successful year, plans for a busy fall semester

The semester is winding down and many departments at WVU Tech are already gearing up for August. Student Support Services (SSS) at WVU Tech is one such program, and the team at SSS has big plans for a busy fall.

The program served more than 200 students in the 2016-2017 academic year. It offers  a wide range of services to students who qualify as low-income, first-generation or disabled. Program participants also have access to unique off-campus cultural and professional development events.

SSS students attend STOMP at the Clay Center in Charleston.SSS students attend STOMP at the Clay Center in Charleston.

This year, for instance, the program took 20 students to see STOMP at the Clay Center on April 24. Another group of students saw the Blue Man Group in March. In April, a group of six SSS students attended the 15th Annual TRIO Student Leadership Conference in Flatwoods, West Virginia. The conference drew in 170 attendees from West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

SSS director Scott Robertson said that attendees participated in hands-on, intensive leadership development sessions. They also participated in a community service project to help out the YWCA in Charleston. Robertson saw his own group became stronger as they built tangible leadership skills throughout the course of the program.

“They worked with peers from other schools in their age range to develop leadership skills that they can bring back to campus and implement in the classroom and in their student organizations. Some of them are applying to be resident advisors, so they’ll be able to use those skills in that setting as well,” he said.

A bright future for SSS at Tech

Last summer, the program received a five-year, $1.7 million grant to continue operating at WVU Tech. Under the grant, SSS was able to hire a new student success advisor. Jeanette Vara started in December 2015 to help the program expand its reach and better serve its student population.

“She’s been a major asset and in her time here has already contributed immensely to the growth of the program,” said Robertson.

The new grant was also designed to get students involved in the program at a much faster rate. SSS saw many of its current students working though the program as soon as school started.

Because of the success of this year’s program, SSS hopes to gain access to increased funding in the 2016-2017 academic year. That increase in funding would establish a drop-in STEM tutoring service that would bring even more peer tutors to the program.

The increased in advisors and enhanced programming are just a few benefits program students can expect to see next year. New students will go through their own orientation program and will team up with a peer mentor from within the program. These mentors will attend workshops, on-campus programs, sporting events and cultural activities to help build a sense of community within the program.

SSS is already planning cultural events for next year, too. With the University’s new campus opening in Beckley, Robertson said that the team is looking into events in that region as well.

Advocating for TRIO on a grander scale

Robertson is enthusiastic about the enhanced team and new programming, but there’s more in store for TRIO at Tech in the upcoming academic year.

SSS director Scott Robertson.SSS director Scott Robertson.

Starting October 1, 2016, Robertson, who currently serves as president of  West Virginia TRIO. will have even more opportunities to advocate for TRIO. He was recently voted president-elect of the  Mid-Eastern Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel (MEAEOPP).

The office runs on a three-year term cycle. Robertson will serve one year as president-elect, one year as president and a third year as immediate past-president.

In this position, he will work with lawmakers and TRIO representatives to promote and advocate for TRIO programming. He will also serve on the national TRIO Council for Opportunity and Education board, where he’ll represent the entire mid-eastern region of TRIO programs in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington, D.C.

As a TRIO program alumnus himself, Robertson is eager to get to work in the new role. He sees it as an opportunity to be a voice for both rural students and TRIO alumni.

“I know that the opportunities I have would not exist if it weren’t for those who came before me, if it weren’t for those advocating and fighting for our programs,” he said.

“This will allow me to share my own experience in the program. It will allow me to uncover information on issues that impact the first-generation, low-income and disabled students that make up a significant percentage of our population here. This can help us continue our growth and get the word out that WVU Tech is a place that operates as a family and is here to make sure that these students are taken care of.”