Home » FSU’s award-winning degree completion program marks first 5 years of graduation assistance

FSU’s award-winning degree completion program marks first 5 years of graduation assistance

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(Left to right) Jill Flees, Director of Graduation Planning and Strategy Office. Lynne Helton, Graduation Specialist in Graduation Planning and Strategy Office. and Vice President and Dean Joe O’Shea.

Andrew Roberts entered Florida State University in 2013 and started out with honors, but a tragic event propelled him on a multi-year journey to earn his degree.

He was able to meet his goals and finally cross the finish line and finally graduate in Spring 2021 thanks to a steady stream of support from one important office at the university and hands-on graduation professionals. I think it’s all thanks to his dedicated guidance.

“There were other people who wanted to see me succeed,” Roberts said.

Through the Completion Campaign program, the Graduation Planning and Strategies Office (GPS) works one-on-one with academically inactive seniors to help them return to school and ultimately earn a diploma. increase.

“FSU’s completion campaign sets a national example of how we care for our students and see them through to graduation, no matter how long it takes.”

— Joe O’Shea, Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Bachelor’s Program

A dedicated Graduation Specialist approaches each case differently using personalized outreach and a plan tailored to each student’s unique circumstances.

complete campaignis one of several initiatives to run out of GPS, launched five years ago and recently recognized by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) as the winner of the 2022 Distinguished Advising Program Award.

“FSU’s graduation campaign sets a national example in how we care for our students and how we see them through to graduation no matter how long it takes,” said Vice President and Dean Joe O. ‘Shea said.

Since the Spring 2017 semester, 2,573 of the 4,251 students identified through the completion campaign have earned a bachelor’s degree. His current active list includes 1,033 students, including those who have already readmitted to college or joined the conversation about readmission.

The completion campaign has improved FSU’s graduation efficiency, resulting in millions of dollars saved for state taxpayers. This initiative earned him the Florida TaxWatch Productivity Award in 2019 for his work.


the importance of listening

Students in good standing may discontinue education for a variety of reasons, including academic disability, career indecision, financial insecurity, family obligations, and mental health or health issues. No two cases are the same.

To help such students reach their graduation goals, administrators say they first need to hear their story.

Andrew Roberts enrolled at Florida State University in 2013 and got off to a good start, but a tragic event propelled him on a multi-year journey to earn his degree.
Andrew Roberts entered Florida State University in 2013 and started out with honors, but a tragic event propelled him on a multi-year journey to earn his degree.

Jill Flees, Head of GPS Office, said: “Contacting students directly creates a space to share what factors led to their decisions, in their own time and in their own words.”

That’s exactly what graduation specialist Lynn Helton did for Roberts, and what she found was a brilliant student who had experienced significant trauma and was unsure about her future.

Roberts graduated from high school with a 4.2 GPA. He had a bright future scholarship. He played tenor his saxophone with his Marching Chiefs and in 2014 Rose played in the national championship game against Auburn University held at the Bowl.

But one morning in early November of my sophomore year, everything changed.

Roberts was an innocent bystander in the shooting. He was unharmed, but was sheltered with others in terror before police escorted them to safety. I was overwhelmed with fear and didn’t want to leave my apartment.

“I couldn’t protect myself, I couldn’t protect my friends,” he said. “I no longer felt safe.”

His GPA has dropped. He transferred to the Panama City campus to be closer to his home. He changed his major many times. He took a job in the restaurant industry and wondered if he needed a college degree.

“I was in a strange place in my life,” Roberts said. “I was comparing myself to others because I wasn’t on the specific timeline that society said I should follow.”

In the summer of 2018, his case arrived at Helton’s desk. Her job is to follow up on students who drop out of their education after completing at least 100 of her credit hours. Developing a degree plan includes, in addition to returning to campus, taking classes online, registering as a temporary student at another school, and implementing the College-Level Examination Program for the last few hours of credit required. (CLEP) test taking may be included.

Helton helped Roberts meet the final requirements for a degree in Recreation, Tourism and Events, including fieldwork at a catering company in Fall 2019.

“If it wasn’t for Ms. Lynn, I probably wouldn’t have graduated,” Roberts said. “She said: “You are one class away.

Helton was “strong, motherly, kind and caring,” he said. She called him every other week for a while. His first internship, at Disney, fell through because of the pandemic.

Helton and his professor at the Panama City campus, Donna Trafford, instead helped arrange an internship through the Seagrove Village Market Café in Seagrove Beach so he could work as a manager while earning college credits.

“Lynn called me every two weeks to make sure I was filing paperwork,” Roberts said. She wasn’t going to let him come all this way and work hard without making sure he got the recognition he deserved.

Helton is the kind of logistical minutiae of getting him where he needs to be and the paperwork he needs to do, and the big picture to process what he’s been through and how to accept that he’s down a non-traditional path. It helped me navigate both. Sometimes I struggled to understand why I needed a college degree when my restaurant career was on the rise.

“After leaving the academics, Andrew had a great reputation in the service industry, but it was like an emotional roller coaster for a while,” said Helton. “The first conversation was tough. He confessed, “I don’t think this is for me. With Sato and Andrew’s ultimate drive to overcome resistance, we were able to achieve a successful graduation together.

The GPS Office and its completion campaign can fly under the radar on campus, but this is partly by design.

“A lot of what we do is done behind the scenes,” says GPS Director Flees. “This is intentional, because students trust us to tell stories that are very sensitive and personal.”

The Outstanding Advising Program Award, awarded in October, is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate all the work done in the office, done as a collaboration with other campus partners, including the registrar’s office and various dean’s offices. I was.

For example, the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy may use the work of the GPS Office to complement what it does within the university to follow up on students who may not graduate or who have failed to complete requirements in time. thinking about. First semester.

“GPS outreach campaigns help coordinate student re-enrolment, interviews with advisors, and collaboration to understand student requirements. When students contact us, we can work with them to address any resulting academic issues that affect their degree.”


Graduation: A Big Relief

Andrew Roberts
Andrew Roberts graduated Spring 2021 in Recreation, Tourism and Events.

When Roberts finally took the stage to receive his diploma in the spring of 2021, he was overwhelmed by what he described as a “relief” and a “lightening of the burden.”

Helton knows that burdens are common among those she serves.

“Many of these students express frustration, embarrassment, or confusion about how to move forward,” Helton said. Thank you so much for taking the time to call, listen, ask questions, and brainstorm solutions.”

It is currently a valid solution for over 2,500 students, with more coming soon.

“Thank you to the wonderful people across campus who contributed to the graduation campaign, especially Lynn Helton, our graduation specialist,” said O’Shea. “Through her consistent and customized support, she has been able to improve the lives of so many students and families, and this is a reflection of her commitment to the community at FSU.”

For more information on the Graduation and Planning Strategies Office, please visit: https://gps.fsu.edu/.

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