Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Student Advocate Program helps struggling DU students

Current University of Denver students struggling with a decision to continue at DU now have a point of contact for assistance.

The Student Advocate Program — launched in spring 2009 — addresses issues that can become barriers to retention, such as financial difficulties, medical situations, academic problems or other personal issues. The program links students with trained advocates who can assist them with decision-making and makes students aware of resources available to them.

“When students are trying to resolve a problem, often they end up making multiple calls or appointments until they find the right department or person needed to resolve their problem — we expedite the process by eliminating the steps in between and getting them connected with the appropriate resource from the beginning,” says Sheila Gannon, a former DU academic adviser and current advocate. “As student advocates, we work with a variety of people across campus on behalf of the students.”

Gannon and Robin Angstadt, another former DU academic adviser, are available via e-mail or in person to help undergraduate and graduate students. While Gannon and Angstadt do not have the authority to change policies and procedures, they are “interpreters of the process” and serve as the student’s personal guide, says Jo Calhoun, associate provost for Student Life.

Working primarily from referrals, the advocates assisted 61 students during the first 10 weeks of the program. Of those, the majority of students were assisted with financial aid and scholarship issues, while others were given advice about tutoring, dealing with social issues and family medical problems. Twenty students reported that their issues had been resolved and that they were definitely planning to return to the University. Due to the positive feedback from the students, the University plans to continue the program.

“It has been a very positive experience thus far,” Gannon says. “This program has helped students stay at DU that may not have been able to stay otherwise. Faculty and staff are committed to helping these students stay at DU.”


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