Staff champion the success of students

Southern Utah University’s Champions Initiative invites faculty and staff to connect with students on campus. Over the past two years, the provost’s office has been implementing this new program to provide more resources for SUU students. 

Faculty and staff members can select to be a champion for students on campus to “champion” their success. The program is 100% optional and is designed to help students while complementing similar initiatives on campus. 

“The Champions Initiative really started where we were trying to connect university employees — faculty and staff — with students that they have some connection to,” said Jared Tippets, vice president for student affairs. “It’s meant to be a loose mentoring arrangement with the hope that students will at least say, ‘I have someone here on campus that cares about me.’”

A champion can be any staff member who has a connection with a student on campus. This could include relatives, neighbors, student employees, church community groups and more who participate in a semesterly check-in with those students.

“Champions are encouraged to check in with their students twice a semester,” Tippets said. “Once around midterms as the fun of the new semester starts to wear off and around registration time if they need help registering or if they don’t register.”

The idea is to make sure that T-Birds have someone who is looking out for them, someone they can turn to for help. While the initiative is just taking off, Tippets has big plans for the future of the Champions program. 

“The challenge is this: we don’t know every single student,” said Tippets. “I wish we could find a way to increase the number of connections, this network that happens, this web of care for students.”

With the purpose being to create connections, students have the opportunity to influence future interactions with champions. As students spend more time on campus and gather questions, the aid of a champion will become noticeable. 

“I would love to grow it, to make it more well-known among students so that students have more confidence in reaching out,” Tippets stated. “I want to open up the dialogue between students and someone who works here, just so you have someone that you can go to.”

As T-Birds work with advisors, teachers and ACES, the connections they make will show up in how students ask for help. With a more personal touch, champions provide students with the comfort of asking questions without fear of judgment. 

“My encouragement to all students is to build your network, build your connections. Relationships are really important in life,” said Tippets. “Get to know as many people as you can, and we are going to try to do the same. There’s a strong interest in helping students on this campus because we care.”

Author: Anna Mower
Photos courtesy of SUU
Editor: Audrey Gee