Success Coaching: A Strategic Approach to Building a Student Success Coaching Model

Success Coaching: A Strategic Approach to Building a Student Success Coaching Model

Tyler L McClain

Assistant Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

As an innovative approach, institutions of higher learning are integrating success coaching to proactively support student success, increase retention and graduation rates. However, as the field develops, many success coaches struggle to define their role and bring awareness to the benefits of success coaching to other student support offices and academically at-risk students. Nova Southeastern University’s Office of Undergraduate Student Success discuss the evolution of their student success coaching model and provide best practices for developing strategic alliances aimed at increasing the use and awareness of success coaches.

University Profile

Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a private, not-for-profit, accredited, coeducational university Carnegie-classified as both “high research activity” and “community engaged” university. Through its undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs, Nova Southeastern enrolled 24,148 students in the 2014–2015 academic year.

Office of Undergraduate Student Success


Office of Undergraduate Student Success provides an intentional holistic approach in the self-discovery of students’ academic and personal goals through academic success coaching, developmental workshops as well as faculty and resource connections. The office is supported by the Title V Cooperative grant awarded by the Department of Education.


As a partner in the educational process, Student Success will serve as a guiding force in creating an environment that fosters retention and degree completion.

Student Success Programs

Academic Success Coaching

  • Early Alert
  • Super Sharks Program
  • Greek Academic Excellence
  • Academic Warning and Probation Outreach
  • Residential Life and Housing Success Coaching Program

Academic Success Workshops

  • Tools for Success Workshops Series
  • Student Success Strategies for Nursing

Undergraduate Student Success Fair

Make-Up Student Orientation

Steps to Building A Success Coaching Model

  • Define your primary message
  • Create a theoretical foundation for coaching practices
  • Develop mutually beneficial partnerships
  • Engage with students outside of coaching
  • Develop a success report

Define Your Primary Message

Success Coaches meet one-on-one with undergraduate students to educate students about university-wide resources and develop personal plans to facilitate student success.

Based on your needs, we can explore strategies for success which include but is not limited to the following topics:

  • Study Strategies
  • Financial Awareness
  • Academic Planning
  • Time Management
  • Self-Awareness
  • Academic Probation
  • Campus Engagement
  • Academic and Student Support Resources

We decided that our primary message should be defined by the needs of the students, thus we held focus groups. We joined committees geared towards retentions initiatives or improving student engagement. Staff members from our office attend our Inter Organization Council (IOC), which is comprised of one representative from every undergraduate organization. We connected University mission and vision to our purpose. Our marketing has always positioned success coaching based on the needs of our audience.

We already coach students. How does your service differ from ours?

Create a Foundation for Coaching Practices

It is important to research services offered in other student support offices and various theories that provide a strong foundation for your service. We selected Appreciative Inquiry as our foundational theory and received training from the National Training Laboratory Certificate program.

Take time to develop processes that will support your coaching staff, students, and the overall process:

  • All About Me—Intake Form
  • Appointment Scheduler
  • Obtain Access to Student Management Database
  • Case Management and Feedback Process
  • Learning Outcomes

Through our work with variou programs and students we saw the need for and developed various hands-on activities and handouts tailored to specific populations.

  • Nursing Semester Management Form
  • Super Sharks Goal Setting
  • Academic Recovery Assistance

Develop Mutually Beneficial Partnerships

We learned early on that we must focus all of our partnerships around the topic of retention. The early alert partnership with faculty was created to help faculty retain students in their courses. The Super Sharks program partnership with undergraduate admissions was created to increase retention of a specific population of students by educating them on support services, such as; tutoring, testing center, academic success coaching , undergraduate academic advising center, writing fellows, and tools for success programs taught by faculty.

Year-End Review

Review current programs and initiatives focused on academic recovery and increasing retention rates to gain insight and rejuvenated focus on providing superior service and welcoming atmosphere to students.

  • Academic Success Coaching
  • Academic Recovery Initiatives
  • Student Resources
  • Success Workshop and Events
  • Student Management Systems
  • Marketing

After completing this review, which takes a few full days spent in a conference room. We gain a more informed understanding of how success coaching impacts persistence and retention. We can better showcase our value to upper administration and begin strategic planning for the next year.


Fabius, S., Grant, G., & Gorelick, A. (2012). Integration of a Theoretical Framework to Enhance Student Retention and Completion: Nova Southeastern University’s Success Coaching Model. Proceedings of the 8th Annual National Symposium on Student Retention. New Orleans, LA. Vol. 1. pp. 234-241.

Appreciative Inquiry: Coaching: Positive Results through Focused Conversations. The National Training Laboratory for Applied Behavioral Science. Arlington, VA.

Office of Undergraduate Student Success, Nova Southeastern University

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About the Presenter

Sheila Fabius serves as Nova Southeastern University’s Director of Undergraduate Student Success. Sheila is charged with directing the administrative functions and processes that support undergraduate retention initiatives such as academic success coaching, academic success workshops, academically at-risk outreach, and the implementation of the early alert system. Sheila earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Master in Public Administration from Florida International University. She is currently a doctoral student in Nova Southeastern University’s Conflict Analysis and Resolution program. Her teaching experience includes, serving as an adjunct instructor at Broward College, a first year experience adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University and a graduate teaching assistant for Human Factors, Mediation and Conflict Coaching in the Ph.D Conflict Analysis and Resolution program.

Tyler L McClain

Assistant Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

Dallas, TX