White takes the lead in Student Support Services

(04-07-2011)

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The new Adams State College Student Support Services Director Dr. Deb White pairs empathy with formal research and analysis to support and encourage student success.

"I truly believe this type of work is my calling," White said. She loves the process of being involved, assisting students with a good start and seeing them connect. "It is not just about ability." White understands a student's commitment and motivation leads them to succeed academically.

At the start of the semester, White met with Adams State Student Support Service students, especially those who started the year on academic probation. "Those who came every week are no longer on probation," she said.

After years of experience directing TRIO Programs White noticed first-year students often believe college courses require no more effort than high school level studies. This precipitates a spiral -- students failing, or not obtaining average levels, coupled with falling self esteem. "Their self-esteem is tied with their accomplishments and when they fail courses it often damages their self-esteem and self-worth and they disconnect and drop-out." White encourages students to accept and rise to the challenge of collegiate academics. "If they use good learning strategies then the sky becomes the limit and their academic self-concept rises." As the students gain confidence they begin making decisions about their major course of study.

White is the first in her family to attend college. She attended a small high school in Georgia that emphasized higher education. "I started thinking, 'yes, I want to go.'" At college she received academic support and encountered professors willing to go the extra mile with students. Her gratitude led her to her current career tract.

An early job, in California, working with a population of international students touched her deeply. "Many of my students were from very poor neighborhoods. They were from China, Africa, Pacific Islanders -- I was the only white woman in a class of forty." Teaching the diverse, underserved students became a rewarding experience. When she moved to Oklahoma, she sought out the same type of work, this time with an Upward Bound Program. Later, pursuing a doctorate in educational psychology White honed her skills in learning theories and strategies.

Experience and education

White received her doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Oklahoma; her master's degree in counseling from Santa Clara University; and her bachelor's degree in social science from Biola University. Prior to coming to Adams State, White was the director of Student Support Services, TRIO Program, at the University of the Ozarks; she taught at the University of Oklahoma, provided instructional design support for FAA Air Traffic Control Academy; and was a coordinator for initial instructor training.

White has written many successful grants for TRIO programs, including two for over a million dollars from the US Department of Education for Student Support Services and Upward Bound. She has been published in the Journal of Experimental Education; and has given professional presentations.

She implemented additional and extensive assessment for students at the University of the Ozarks and believes this strategy is a perfect fit for Adams State Student Support Services. White emphasizes once a student is recruited into the Student Support Services Program it is a four-year commitment. "I want them to understand once the Summer Scholars Program ends, they are still in our program, which assists student for their entire college career."

Starting in January, White said her overall impression of the campus and staff has been open and receptive and appreciates the helpful attitude from many. The Admissions Office and academic departments on campus have invited her to department meeting to discuss further advancing the student enrollment in Student Support Services.

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