This year, UW Tacoma introduced two new “completion coach” positions on campus. The two coaches that were hired, both of whom are UWT alumni, are TeyAnjulee Leon and Marion LaRocque. The completion coaches are meant to support students who are either currently considering dropping out, or have left UWT and are looking to return now after some time away.
“Think of us like a friendly NPC [non-playable character], someone who provides support for a student as they go through their journey,” said LaRocque. “Completion coaches are here to be guides … ”
Leon elaborated further on what this means for students.
“Our goal is to help coordinate outreach efforts across campus by connecting the different people that work with the students, their overall ‘team,’ so that each individual student receives the most tailored support possible and the team of people who support them are equipped as best as possible.” Leon said.
LaRocque went on to discuss how involved they are in students’ educational success.
“We are not just about academics, even if our title only makes it seem we are only interested in students graduating,” LaRocque said. “A student’s college experience is more than academics. We are here to support the entire student experience … ”
According to Leon, their role in helping students includes connecting students with the resources necessary to help manage finances. They can also help to facilitate finding housing and food for students struggling to locate and access these resources.
“If you’re struggling with finances, technology resources, food or a place to live, then we want to support you in accessing resources to resolve those challenges as well,” Leon said.
Both coaches emphasized the importance of their backgrounds reflected in the passion for their work. LaRocque — who is originally from Australia — spent five years at community college and took time deciding a major she could find enjoyment in.
“I bounced from major to major while living with extended family, all the while feeling home sick and questioning every decision I made up to that point,” LaRocque said. “By the time I eventually transferred and graduated from UW Tacoma, I had realized one thing; I couldn’t be a successful student alone. I wouldn’t have continued my education if it wasn’t for some amazing people on campus around me who supported me … ”
For Leon, the role of a completion coach is a very personal one. Having had a difficult time in her undergraduate studies, she hopes to be a resource and give students the tools they need to succeed. Tools which Leon said she wished she had had going through college.
“I had a pretty negative experience with my university,” Leon said. “In a lot of ways I’m still recovering from what I went through. Working with students in this capacity is a kind of therapy for me. It’s an opportunity to validate students’ experiences and offer the help and support that I wish I’d had. I can’t change or fix what went wrong during the course of my education. What I can do is try my best to ensure that students who need support get access to everything their school has to offer.”