Newly hired Student Success coaches Nicki Sunwall and Erin Wilson both have very personal reasons for wanting students to put their best foot forward at Shoreline. Sunwall, who now helps students navigate college for a living, never intended to go to college herself. And Wilson was living out of her car when she first set foot on North Seattle’s campus as a first-generation student back in 2004.
As Shoreline grows its student services, Sunwall and Wilson want to ensure those seeking their education here experience success on our campus. And they both draw on their personal experiences as non traditional students to connect with Shoreline’s community.
Sunwall is housed in the FOSS building and specializes in working with on-campus learners, as well as students involved in the Get in Gear (GIG) program, the recently instituted Academic Coaching and Engagement program (ACE) and Shoreline Scholars. Wilson’s focus is on eLearning students and building a sense of community within the online sphere. Her office is in the eLearning (1200) building.
For Sunwall, while her position in academia is a bit of a surprise to her, it’s completely fitting. “I never intended to go to college,” she said. “I didn’t think it was for me. But I ended up going and I feel like I found myself in education. School grew my confidence in myself and helped me realize my potential.” It was this experience that inspired Sunwall to help others find their paths through her role as a Success Coach.
“It’s very real how much influence and impact education can play on a person and their identity in so many different ways, especially about their feeling of their place in life,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important for the campus experience to be a positive thing: students can have freedom to discover their potential if they get connected with a staff member who fosters that exploration.”
Wilson agrees. “We have so many resources here on campus to help students on their journey, and it’s our job as Success Coaches to help connect students to that resource community. Once they’re connected they can see their full potential and feel empowered to go after those dreams and goals they have and to really grow to their full potential.”
As a first-generation student who attended college while living out of her car, Wilson deeply understands just how much some students rely on their campus community for support.
“My decision to go to college definitely put a wedge between myself and my family,” she said. “If I hadn’t had someone on campus telling me that I was capable of achieving and that they expected a high level of performance from me, I’m not sure if I’d be in the same place I am today.”
So what exactly do Success Coaches do? “It’s really tailored to each student,” said Sunwall. “We look at how a student is studying and what skills they need to work on to get them to the next level. We model communication skills, life skills, time management, self advocacy, navigating systems, really the gamut. And we let students practice these skills here in a safe environment so they’re ready to use them down the road in their careers.”
“And for online learners,” Wilson added, “it’s also about helping them feel connected to the campus in that virtual environment so they don’t feel lost and get left behind. My goal is to make online learners feel like they have the same community and resources as an on-campus student. We want to build a sense of community and a real sense that there’s no right or wrong way to do your education, just being here is important and everyone belongs.”
Sunwall and Wilson hope their new positions will also help foster a culture of referring on our campus. “Our one-on-one coaching of students is meant to work in partnership with the other resources at the college,” Wilson said. “We’re here to support staff and faculty in finding the best paths for individual students to find success and provide a sort of family experience for the student.”
“We want students to know that asking for help is a positive thing,” Sunwall added. “So Shoreline can be more of a community where everyone’s connected to resources and feel like our campus is truly a community fostering students’ academic experience and goals.”