In the fall of 2012, after undertaking several college-wide initiatives that entailed extensive institutional reflection, the  Office of the President and the Student Development and Enrollment Management Division took its student retention efforts to another level by establishing the Student Success Coaching Unit.

The Coaches serve as college navigators and advisors who assist students in identifying and addressing their needs, interests, academic requirements, and goals. Rather than providing specific services, they refer students to internal and external sources of support, as appropriate.

Since August 2012, approximately 1,600 Hostos students have worked with Success Coaches. Every entering first-time student is assigned a “coach” who will support that student until he or she graduates or transfers. Budgeted at approximately $3 million, this initiative will be fully implemented by the end of the 2014-15 academic year. Student Success Coaches are full-time staff professionals who are working under the guidance of the Office of Student Development and Enrollment Management (SDEM).

“A great number of community college students, face many challenges today, both in and out of the classroom,” said Nathaniel Cruz, Vice President for SDEM. “By providing each student with a coach who they can see whenever they need to, we can help our students navigate through their academic life more efficiently.”

Ultimately, the Unit will play a significant role in helping students remain in college and graduate.  In summer 2012, the coaches were oriented to the culture of the College through the Summer Bridge Program, new student orientations, academic advisement, and further follow-up with college support services.

Students’ progress is documented from enrollment to graduation or transfer, and every coach works with between 150 and 250 students per semester. Depending upon the individual’s need, the success coach might meet with a student as seldom as once a week or as often as three times a day.

Angela Ríos is the Director for the Student Success Coaching Unit and the Coordinator of the Summer Bridge Program. A former college counselor and coordinator, Ríos said her skills as a collaborator have been put to work in her new role at

Hostos. The former liaison for the Division of Academic Affairs at Eastern Connecticut State University, Ríos implemented academic workshops for residential students which focused on study skills and stress management. 

“We are not only tracking each student we see, we are also tracking how the support systems on campus are doing as well,” Ríos said. “This Unit is constantly gathering information and using it to make the student experience at Hostos the best that it can be.”

Sasha Ortíz is the Student Success Coaching Unit’s Graduation Tracking Specialist.  She has been busy tracking the numbers related to the pilot program that she said could be implemented in other CUNY colleges. The “numbers person” for the Unit, Ortíz also examined student dropout rates at Hostos, and more importantly, their causes. Ortíz is currently tracking more than 4,200 students at the College.

Before becoming a Success Coach, Safiya Solomon, who currently works with 197 students, was the Caimans women’s volleyball coach from 2009-2010. “Some students are academically unprepared and some lack some basic communication skills you need in college.  What we try to do is build a relationship so they can trust the source of the information they are getting. Once you see that start to take hold, it is pretty special to watch them grow.”

Brandon Godreaux is a 19-year-old student studying business at Hostos. He is entering his third semester, and while he loves college and loves to learn, sometimes he leans on Solomon to point him in the right direction.

“I meet with her about once a week,” Brandon said. “I feel blessed to have the coach I have. It is not like a counseling center, because you deal with the same person each time. At least for me, I think that is important. She makes sure I’m on top of things. Sometimes people need that push.”

Another Success Coach, Derek Ivery, worked at Queens College for five years. Ivery had never heard of anything like the Unit before coming to Hostos. However, after helping so many students through the financial aid process, Ivery said these added responsibilities add to the “culture shock” first-time college students can experience.

“We really develop a close relationship with some of these students,” Ivery said. “When they leave, it is like our babies are leaving us when they graduate.”

But for the coaches in the Unit, that also means mission accomplished.

About Hostos Community College
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College is an educational agent for change that has been transforming and improving the quality of life in the South Bronx and neighboring communities since 1968. It serves as a gateway to intellectual growth and socioeconomic mobility, as well as a point of departure for lifelong learning, success in professional careers, and transfer to advanced higher education programs. The College’s unique "Student Success Coaching Unit" provides students with individualized guidance and exemplifies its emphasis on student support services.

Hostos offers 29 associate degree programs and five certificate programs that facilitate easy transfer to CUNY's four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions. The College has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education & Workforce Development that offers professional development courses and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. Hostos is part of The City University of New York (CUNY), the nation's leading urban public university, which serves more than 480,000 students at 24 colleges.