Campus program helps first generation, disabled students succeed in college

Posted November 2, 2015

Student Support Services (SSS) is a program like no other on the campus of UW-River Falls. SSS is offered to students who are first generation low-income students and students with disabilities.

Located in the basement of the Chalmer Davee Library, SSS has 200 students in the program right now. Priority is given to students who are the first generation to attend a university, have financial need, or have a disability. Currently there is a waiting list to get into the program.

Student Support Services is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, which accounts for 100 percent of the program’s total cost.

Chuyani Yang, director of Student Support Services, said the program provides a lot of different workshops for students.

“We team up with Career Services to help with résumé building,” Yang said. “Also we offer a lot of meditation and well-being events around finals.”

Other workshops include ones to help students with test taking skills, as well as organization skills, time management skills, prioritizing, and even talking about majors and minors.

“The biggest benefit that students have gotten out of SSS,” Yang said, “is the one-on-one coaching that they receive when they are in the program.”

Four staff members in the office take on a caseload of about 60 students each, ranging from freshmen to super seniors. Besides the four staff members, student workers also are active in the program. Yang said students do not need to be in SSS in order to work in the office, and it is good to have non-program members to work and integrate with students in the program.

Each staff member checks in with students a couple times a semester to be sure that they are on track in their academic career. They also make sure that each student in the program is ready for after graduation.

Staff members talk to students about finances, personal issues and addressing those to help the student work through those issues that they may be encountering.

“Our ultimate goal is to have students start allocating for themselves,” Yang said. “We give them the resources, teach them how to use them, and they will be good with themselves by the time they leave here.”

Yang said that it is important for these students to really get involved on campus and utilize the other resources that are offered at UWRF. SSS also partners with Student Counseling Services to support student in any personal issues that they may be going through.

One of the most important aspects to SSS is how it works with first generation college students. SSS essentially decodes the college jargon and makes it easier for students to communicate best with their professors as well as other students on campus.

“We want the campus to know that we are here and that we want to get involved with everyone on campus,” Yang said. “It is important for the campus to see how well the students blossom throughout the program.”

Yang said she hopes that Student Support Services will be able to serve more than 200 students in the future.