The 49er Connect Success Guides is a new University Center for Academic Excellence (UCAE) program developed in the summer of 2020 by Dean John Smail and UCAE employees Kimberly Rodgers, Rasheda Sykes and Jordan Bullington. This program supports students in their academic goals, including those who may need assistance adjusting to the new way of college life. It was established to meet student needs in the face of the pandemic. 

In an interview with the Niner Times, Academic Support Program Coordinator Sarah Marshall spoke about why the program came into existence. 

"Students felt like they were unable to connect as much," she said. "They weren't reaching out to resources as frequently and we thought it might be useful to have a peer resource that was able to help, first of all, connect them to the necessary resources, give them guidance on academic help...we also act as someone to contact and connect with on campus." 

Success guides are responsible for finding resources to help students succeed in their classes. These resources can be anything from helping navigate Canvas to Zoom assistance, contacting professors, locating and using office hours, as well as tips to succeed academically, such as time management and goal setting. 

The Director of the University Center for Academic Excellence Kimberly Rodgers told the Niner Times, "We met with a group of people who brainstormed who might be a good target population. So we looked at some demographics of students. We looked at who would be taking classes over the summer, how many students. We also looked at who we had available on staff since we launched this program very quickly. We used the resources that we had available." 

There is a general four-step process when meeting with the success guides. Students recommended by their college, also known as mandatory students, have to meet a minimum of four times, but all other opt-in students can meet as infrequently or as much as they prefer. 

"In terms of troubleshooting with Zoom... It's very hard to do work and have leisure when you're trapped in the same room," said success guide Evan Gray. "The way that I try to separate work from leisure is that I have my ceiling light on. I usually don't have it on; it's usually just a low-lighting that I use when hanging around, reading a book or watching Netflix. I flip that switch on whenever I am here to do work. It is enough of a change in the environment that it forces my body to recognize that it is time to work." 

In addition to meeting with the students each week and providing guidance, the success guides have weekly mandatory meetings to discuss new tips to share with the students they meet and new strategies to help their students succeed. The team of success guides all put together a biweekly newsletter and email it to their students. This newsletter includes events that are happening in the week ahead at UNC Charlotte and a study habit tip. 

"My favorite part of being a success guide is meeting with my peers and being able to communicate and speak with them one-on-one with certain things that I can relate to," success guide Kiyoshi Roberts says. "A lot of students that I've spoken to don't have a strong support system, so just being able to connect with them and speak with them about certain things and being able to reassure them that it's going to be okay and making sure that they have the necessary resources." 

Students can be recommended to meet with their college's success guides or students can opt-in to be a part of the program. Students can decide how much or little they want to meet with the success guides and the schedule is flexible. 

"I think the most rewarding thing is the fact that even though I can't meet with students face-to-face, I'm still able to help them out online," success guide Allison Craft says. "Whether it's with registration or a teacher that they are having a bit of a problem with, I'm still able to help them out and know that they are not going to struggle as much anymore."

Editor's note: ["My favorite part of being a success guide is meeting with my pairs...] was edited to ["My favorite part of being a success guide is meeting with my peers...]. The Niner Times regrets this error.

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