Peer success coaches provide one-on-one coaching to assigned students through individual meetings, helping them determine their personal and professional goals, develop individual plans and implement strategies that promote success.

“One of the best things about this program is that it offers students who are struggling or who are new to USD the opportunity to connect with someone who can not only help them feel like they belong, but also can guide them in taking advantage of all the amazing resources that USD provides its students,” said Melissa Tabke, Opportunity Center coordinator. “Going to college is a big transition, regardless of where a student is in life. We’re here to connect students to the resources and tools they need to be successful, no matter where they come from or what life stage they’re at.”

Last semester, the Opportunity Center hired six success coaches, selecting upperclassmen undergraduate students from a wide range of disciplines who have good academic standing, strong interpersonal skills and a desire to help others, among other qualifications.

“Hiring high achieving students who have ‘been there, done that’ and have used USD’s resources effectively on their own journey has really improved our office’s ability to reach more students,” said Tabke. “Our peer coaches help students reach success, whether that’s by showing them what’s available to them at USD, helping them hone their study and organization habits and navigate their academic journey, encouraging them to get involved on campus, or connecting them to resources on campus.”

After going through 20 hours of training and shadowing Opportunity Center employees, peer success coaches helped more than 25 students throughout the fall 2023 semester.

“Being able to see things from the student perspective is really helpful for a lot of students,” said Tabke.

Lilian Shari, a senior medical biology and Spanish double major, is one of the center’s peer success coaches. For her, interest in becoming a coach piqued from a desire to help guide her peers who are taking similar classes to her and might feel overwhelmed.

“Knowing what I know now, I want to help others who might be interested in similar areas of study achieve what is possible for them with the lessons that I have learned throughout my four years at USD,” said Shari. “Having the right people helping you out makes all the difference.”

Not only is Shari supporting students in reaching their full potential, but she’s also charting her own path toward success and gaining invaluable skills through the coaching experience.

“I have learned that to solve any one issue, there isn’t always a cut-and-dried answer,” said Shari, who plans on applying to medical schools in the fall. “I tend to think more with logic, but this experience has opened my eyes to the thought process and talking things out – I’ve learned that you need both emotion and action to work together to come up with a solution. I think that using this experience will help me understand and become a better physician for my future patients.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, the Opportunity Center is hosting a Meet the Coaches event in the Muenster University Center. From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., students can hear from peer success coaches and learn more about the program.

Students interested in becoming a peer success coach for the fall 2024 semester can apply on Coyote Careers at the end of the spring semester. Applicants must be pursuing an undergraduate degree and have completed 45 credit hours with a GPA of at least 3.0 to be considered.

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