St. Louis was recently recognized as one of the seven new communities designated as a Talent Hub by the Lumina Foundation, in partnership with the Kresge Foundation. The St. Louis Talent Hub is a collaboration led by St. Louis Graduates. The foundation granted St. Louis Graduates $275,000 to address equity gaps in regional degree completion.
“Part of the funding will be used to build out our student success initiative to where we are going to be providing professional development opportunities for college personnel to learn about the best practices, not only throughout the region, but throughout the country, and seeing how we can replicate those things in the various campuses,” said Alan Byrd, co-chair of St. Louis Graduates and vice provost for Enrollment Management at the University of Missouri- St. Louis. “Then each of the partner institutions will get $20,000 to accelerate the work that they are already doing.”
One of the partner institutions receiving $20,000 for its Life Coaching Program is Maryville University.
“We did an extensive look at colleges in the region that were doing a good job of graduating underserved students: low-income, first-generation students, and students of color,” Byrd said. “Maryville was one of the five institutions that really stood out.”
Students and faculty gathered on June 1 at the university for its START (Student Testing, Advising, Registration and Transition) program, in support of the Life Coaching program that recently received funding.
“All the incoming students sign up to attend the START day, and we have six throughout the summer,” said Kirby Cooper, Orientation lead coordinator and third-year student. “They register for their classes, and they get to meet other students who will be attending Maryville with them. They also can connect with any faculty or staff members that are around all day.”
Students are provided a life coach who is assigned to them during their transitional period between high school to college, and they stick with them all four years.
“Our focus is providing comprehensive and holistic development for students,” Life Coach Maxwell Artis said. “That’s across academic, professional and personal development.”
The Life Coach model follows four focus areas: academic advising, career exploration, learning diagnostics (assessments that Maryville administers before students arrive on campus to help identify resources and support to personalize their experience), and retention support.
“The reason why I do this work is to be along in a student’s journey, development, and growth,” Artis said. “Through the Life Coach model of professional, personal, and academic development, we get an opportunity to build solid deep rich relationships with our students.”
Maryville’s Life Coach Program was implemented three years ago, meaning the graduating class of 2019 will be the first class to experience the full four-year program. Senior Brittney Pomile will be one of those graduates.
“With my Life Coach Brady Griffin, he works really closely with me,” Pomile said. “Even though he might not be a biology or pre-med major, which is what I study, I was able to reach out to other life coaches. Max is previously a biology premed major, and so I was able to come to him and confide in him and Brady and be able to work on plans of academic success, as well as professional, leadership, and development.”
St. Louis Graduates hopes that other schools within the St. Louis Talent Hub will replicate such programs to “eliminate existing barriers for students to be able to graduate from college, including financial, social, and academic.”
“This is really important for St. Louis,” Byrd said. “Our city is dependent on producing more college graduates and more people to fit the workforce needs. We have the talent, but we have to make sure we have the mechanisms in place to develop the talent and make sure that everyone has an opportunity to pursue postsecondary education.”
Ashley Jones is an Emma Bowen Foundation editorial intern at The St. Louis American, supported by a grant from the Democracy Fund.