Ensuring new students succeed at NAU

Michelle Gardner

   Michelle Gardner, Academic Transitions Program coordinator and NAU alumna

As I entered NAU’s campus as a freshman, I was shaking. I knew no one, I had no idea what a bursar was and I knew this was the path that determined so much of my future.

Four years later I was getting ready to graduate and mourning the thought of leaving this place I called home.

Reflecting back, one has to wonder what happens from day one to graduation day to make so many of us never want to leave.

In my experience, I discovered this affinity was the result of exceptional interpersonal support and a community connection. I found what I needed to be successful at NAU.

After graduation, I was driven to pursue a master’s degree in college student development so I could serve future Lumberjacks in their own success and connection to the NAU campus.

Programs across campus focus on student success and at Academic Transition Programs, we strive to aid our students in becoming successful as they move from high school to higher education.

Freshman year has many challenges from learning to do laundry, to making friends, to knowing how to budget time. Our program hires upperclassmen to directly mentor and teach first-year students how to navigate this environment and develop their abilities to be self-regulated learners. We provide one-on-one coaching appointments so students have an instant resource to discuss their struggles and successes with someone who is rooting for them.

Additionally, we hire peer instructors who lead a small class of first year students through their transitions to university life. Students tell us the class makes them feel less intimidated and that the university’s services are accessible to them.

During a transition, a person begins to feel marginal. At Academic Transition Programs, we focus on the student, getting them involved and connected. We can all strive to accomplish this goal, ensuring every student feels like they matter and that they can be successful at Northern Arizona University.