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Extraordinary Support

By Joseph E. Nyre, Ph.D.

As a psychologist and University president, I have witnessed how difficult it is for students to thrive without robust support. The more students feel cared for — not only academically, but socially and spiritually — the more likely they are to graduate. At Seton Hall, nurturing students in every aspect of their educations is an intentional thread that runs through our 167-year history.

Today, prospective students are looking for institutions that offer a widening array of experiences and support services. Expectations for what a higher education can provide are increasing, fueled by growing costs and robust competition between institutions over applicants.

In that light, Seton Hall decided to elevate our already strong methods of supporting students. We deployed multiple actions rooted in two pillars of the Seton Hall experience: our historic identity as a caring Catholic community and the strength of our strategic plan, Harvest Our Treasures. As a result, student support at Seton Hall has never been more proactive, integrated
and comprehensive.

Key to our efforts is an Affordability Agenda that lessens the financial burden on students to the greatest extent possible. Last year, we allocated a record $158 million in scholarships for students throughout the University, and particularly for Pell-eligible students, who have seen awards increase by more than 25 percent in recent years. We are advancing our Resilience, Integrity, Scholarship and Excellence (RISE) Program and participation in the state Educational Opportunity Fund, both of which provide outstanding support for students of limited means. By emphasizing affordability, we are ensuring our students graduate focused on the future, rather than how to pay for their past.

To deepen our academic and social engagement with students on their journey to Commencement, we also transformed our advising model. From the day they arrive on campus to the day they graduate, students benefit from a personalized Student Success Team composed of personnel from across the University. These integrated teams can include a faculty adviser, student success adviser, Career Center adviser, peer adviser.

In addition to engaging with the student, team members communicate with each other and the student’s professors to assess the student’s progress, identify any issues and address small concerns before they become large problems. By design, the Student Success Team remains relatively stable through all four years. This is a departure from other higher education advising models, by which advisers change depending on a student’s grade and academic program.

Other examples of Seton Hall’s increasingly proactive approach to student support and engagement can be found in the Career Center, which is advancing student engagement by leaps and bounds. Rather than rely on students to visit, the Center meets students where they are — sending personnel into each school and college to assess their unique career needs and goals, and then developing successful strategies to meet them.

To better address students’ increasing mental-health concerns, Seton Hall’s Counseling and Psychological Services unit welcomed three new counselors this semester. Creative ways to reach students when and where they need help include expanded telehealth hours and an emergency after-hours line where there is always a counselor on call.

In the post-COVID world, a focused effort was undertaken to reacclimate students to the fullness of University life, with our transformed University Center as a key component. Opened in November, it has quickly become the indispensable heart of our South Orange campus. Unlike campus centers at many institutions, which are not highly used apart from key mealtimes, our students are benefiting from this impressive facility at rates that exceed our highest expectations. They are eager to meet, socialize and study every day and well into the night.

Across our campuses, learning takes place outside the classroom thanks to a steady stream of eminent guests. This year, students were treated to conversations with Ambassador Csaba Ko¯rösi, president of the 77th United Nations General Assembly, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. Connecting students with such luminaries is part of what differentiates us from peers and burnishes the University’s reputation as an academic leader.

Seton Hall has advanced as a leading Catholic university partly because it successfully responds to the shifting needs and goals of students, providing them with extraordinary support. Today is no different. Times and circumstances change, but the University knows how to anticipate challenges and develop robust solutions. All the while it remains rooted in a caring Catholic intellectual and spiritual community. That was true in 1856 and it will remain true for this and future generations.

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