They operate mostly behind the scenes, but occasionally those who support our students step into the spotlight themselves. Lori Cranson, Associate Dean of the Centre for Community Services and Early Childhood and the Centre for Health Sciences, was the latest to be recognized for her outstanding efforts, accepting a John and Suanne Roueche Excellence Award for her work with the Student Success team.
Quick to credit her team for the award, Cranson says that their approach to serving the roughly 2,800 students they support is focused but evolving. At this point, they reach out in three ways: peer led learning groups, ongoing orientation, which offers continuous outreach to students through the term; and an Early Alert System, which helps faculty identify and support students who are falling behind.
In peer led learning groups, second-year students coach first years to success, in person and online by setting up weekly review sessions. "It reinforces what they learned in the classroom, helps them see it from a different perspective. And that helps the learning stick," says Cranson.
In ongoing orientation, the Student Success team disrupts the traditional early positioning of orientation to offer continuous support throughout the term, via email, video vignettes, signage, in-class visits, and new this year, a Student Success newsletter. Through Early Alert, the team helps faculty identify students who are struggling by tracking warning signs like missed tests and low attendance. The team then direct students towards support services like financial aid, accessibility services or counselling.
While some of these programs have been in place for a few years, the team constantly evolves its offering, meeting with faculty, conducting surveys and focus groups with students, and working with department chairs to determine the next strategy. "What worked for one group may not be as helpful for another," says Cranson. "The student population changes from year to year, so you have to meet the needs of that student population."
Cranson, who was a high school teacher and then vice-president of programs at The Learning Partnership before joining George Brown as associate dean 12 years ago, says she’s driven by a desire to see students realize the hopes and dreams they bring with them to college. "I think we should do everything we can to help them achieve their goals," says Cranson. "The research all shows that what happens in the classroom is critically important, but what is outside the classroom is also really important—students need to feel a sense of inclusion, a sense of a pathway of where they are going, and the support to get there. I believe that it's our role to do whatever we can to help students, and I love to see them be successful."