Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tri-County to Kick Off Twenty/20 Program This Fall

CONTACT:  DAN HOLLAND, 646-1552 or


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        6/19/2013

                                                                                                (By Lisa Garrett)

            PENDLETON --- Dan Holland remembers how disconnected he felt when he arrived as a nervous freshman on the campus of Southern Wesleyan University in 1986.    

            The first-generation college student athlete had never been on a college campus and needed help in acclimating to an academic environment.  He says what could have been a dropout story turned into a rewarding college experience because of the university's mentoring program.  Freshmen were paired with faculty and staff members who served as 'adopted parents,' who guided them through their freshman year and beyond, said Holland, who today serves as dean of student development at Tri-County Technical College.

            Holland was paired with the assistant to the vice president of business affairs, who is now 86 years old and who became like family to him.  "To this day she remains a close friend and confidante," he said.

            Tri-County's Disabilities Coordinator Stephanie Winkler had a similar experience when she earned her undergraduate degree at Converse College.  "When I arrived on campus at Converse, I was nervous and intimidated.  I had always been a successful student in high school but this was a totally new world and I felt in over my head from the first day."

             During orientation week she met with a group of about 10 new students and an orientation leader.  "It was through this experience that I met one of my politics department professors, mentor, and eventual friend," she said.

            Holland and Winkler have teamed together to design a program for Tri-County that is similar to the positive experiences they had as college freshmen.  Called Twenty20, it's a mentoring and personal relationship-building program set to kick off this fall.

            Twenty members of Tri-County's faculty and staff will each serve as "Twenty20 coaches" for twenty students to improve student retention and success.  This initiative will support the institutional goal of increasing student retention.  A pilot program will start in the fall with 10 coaches teamed with 20 students each.

            Twenty20 coaches will serve as a coach, support system and friendly face for their students.  Coaches also will act as a conduit to services and success.  The program will encourage building relationships and fostering a more cordial atmosphere for faculty/staff and students so that students feel comfortable asking for help.

            "We are promoting student engagement as part of our strategic plan at the College," said Holland.  "Both Stephanie and I experienced a similar program that was helpful in our academic journeys. We hope the Twenty20 program will be a transformative opportunity for Tri-County students as well."            

            Winkler said the program will be valuable because Tri-County students can feel disconnected without a residential component on campus.  Also, for a student who isn't technologically inclined, college can be less personalized because they often communicate with a computer, not a person, about their goals, added Holland.

            Prospective students are being identified via a questionnaire in which they indicate a need for a friend or mentor to guide them. These students will be chosen based on a variety of data and success indicators.

            "We will recruit over the summer and begin calling students to invite them to join the program.  We hope to fill 200 slots for fall," said Winkler.

            Holland says the intent is for the program to extend to the College's community partners as well.  "Our desire is to build a connection and interest with the community at-large; hence, in doing so, the Twenty20 program not only will impact positively student-retention/student-success, but student recruitment as well.  Residents of Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties are all asking, 'What is the Twenty20?', therefore, generating more excitement and interest in the programs and services for Tri-County."

            There will be a kick off August 30 for faculty/staff coaches and recruits.  Motivational speaker and author Steve Edwards will be the keynote speaker.

            "I would not have persisted in college had I not had my adopted mom," said Holland.  "I would have been a statistic.  My personal mentor gave me confidence and self esteem, which are huge."

            Winkler says her college mentor initially was very tough on her because he knew she wasn't reaching her potential.  "I didn't like him much because of that.  I wanted to take the easier road and just coast through college like I did in high school.  He challenged me in every way, lectured me when I skipped class, and held me to a standard higher than I ever imagined.  He helped me get through my college years from the standpoint of going to class and completing assignments, but he gave me much more than that.  He helped me see my potential and to develop a drive to do better and work harder.  With those lessons in my mind, I went on to be a very successful law student.  I have never forgotten those lessons and I try to pass them along to the students I work with now."

            Often times Holland says he listens to students talk about their personal challenges which sound very much like his did in the 80's.  "I often see myself in these students," he said.   "That's why I know this program will work."

            Based on their interest and enthusiasm, Tri-County faculty and staff believe it will, also, said Winkler.  "The program already has a waiting list for those interested in becoming coaches next year.  Each time we talk to groups, we get more volunteers.  They see the value of the program.  They want to be a part of it," she said. 

            "We've asked them to step back and remember their own college days and what motivated them, along with the characteristics and skills of the people who influenced them so they can apply those experiences to this unique opportunity," said Winkler.

            Coaches were chosen with equal faculty/staff representation, with attention being given to diversity, academic backgrounds and life experiences.  "We have a music teacher and a microbiologist," said Winkler.

            "The program is all about student success and retention," said Holland.  "The program we designed will make a tremendous contribution to reaching our goal of increasing retention by 10 percent."

            He added: "There will be robust relationships that come out of the program.  With me, 30 years later, I still have a relationship with my mentor and I expect the same will happen here.  Once a friend, always a friend, once a coach and mentor, always one.  This will make a tremendous difference in moving the needle from a student success standpoint."



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