By: MADISON WARD
On January 22, 2020, Betsy Lucal became the new Interim Director of IU South Bend’s Titan Success Center (TSC). Lucal was the perfect fit for the position, as she has continuously proven her motivation and compassion when it comes to helping IU South Bend students.
The TSC is an IU South Bend program that provides services to students who are struggling academically and non-academically, usually due to unfortunate circumstances such as working multiple jobs, raising children, not being able to properly feed themselves, on top of attending school.
“One of the most important things about IU South Bend, as a school, is the recognition that—even though compared to when I came to school here 20 plus years ago—we now have a much more traditional student body. Our students are traditional in terms of age, but they are not traditional in terms of experiences” explained Lucal.
TSC strives to help students that are having a hard time attending class and/or properly completing homework assignments because they have so many other responsibilities and problems to deal with outside of school.
Because many professors make attendance mandatory and/or create assignments that demand attendance to IU South Bend events or other outside coursework, sometimes it is hard for students to complete the requested assignment while simultaneously trying to juggle their other everyday responsibilities.
Lucal promotes the idea of finding alternative ways for students to accomplish academic work, such as the suggestion of virtual clubs. The importance of getting involved in the campus is undeniable, but sometimes there are circumstances that prevent that.
“We have to be able to take the milieu (social environment) of the student into account and say, ‘okay.”
“It’s not just enough to say to the student, ‘Well you need to study this amount of time in order to succeed in this class.’ What we need to think about is, ‘what are the barriers that this student encounters every day when they are trying to do these very typical, school-related tasks?” explained Lucal.
TSC also devotes special attention to ensuring students are successful in receiving scholarships through the 21st Century Scholarship program.
“We also serve students who are 21st-century scholars—making sure they know what requirements they need to meet to retain the eligibility for their scholarship. And we are trying to serve students from underrepresented groups,” Lucal said.
As a professor of sociology, it is very important to Lucal to make TSC a place where students feel like they can go for help no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, income, or personal circumstance.
The Making the Academic Connection (MAC) office that worked with Latinx students, which included Latinx specialist and Recruitment/Retention Counselor Cynthia Murphy-Wardlow, was absorbed by the Titan Success Center a few years ago.
“[Murphy-Wardlow] is both an academic coach and somebody who does outreach, and recruiting, and advising of Latinx students because we know that they are an underrepresented group who tends to be at risk of not persisting to graduation,” said Lucal.
“We are helping students maneuver through those complicated life circumstances. That, I think, is where we, as TSC, have the most to give to our campus” explained Lucal.
This IU South Bend program does so much to help students receive the assistance they need to persist to graduation, but, unfortunately, does not always have the best reputation.
One explanation is that they are limited in their capacity to communicate with the many students attending IU South Bend. TSC has been around since 2015, but only has a staff of about 10 people. The group mainly contacts freshmen, because they only have so many resources in order to try to help the thousands of students on campus.
They use the Student Engagement Roster (SER) to contact students who have been flagged, because of either poor attendance or poor course work. Freshmen are priority number one because TSC hopes that after helping those students in the very beginning of their collegial journey, then hopefully they will know what to do in the future and who they can contact for assistance.
Though there are limited resources, that is not to say that their staff does not deserve recognition or respect from the students and staff of IU South Bend.
“One of the things that I want to make sure you know is that the staff that we have is fabulous. They have done everything they can to continue to serve our students as best they can, despite the circumstances,” said Lucal.
“I think that that’s one of the things that has sort of gotten lost in the stories about the TSC. They get blamed for a lot of things; they don’t get nearly the credit that they deserve. I think it’s because when you do good stuff, it’s easy for it to get lost. But when you are viewed as doing negative things, that’s what gets peoples’ attention.”
Erin Brown, especially, should be acknowledged as an academic coach as well as the assistant director of TSC who has worked for the program from almost the beginning of its inception many years ago.
She not only oversees the day-to-day operations at TSC but simultaneously works as a coach helping these students make their way through this challenging college experience that demands so much commitment.
“Most of all,” Lucal said, “what I want to do is leave the TSC in a place where it has positioned itself to reach its potential as a vehicle for supporting our students as they work to graduate.”
TSC is located inside the front gate of the Administration Building when entering from the University Grille. Students are welcome to sign up for an appointment online, but the TSC also predominantly handles walk-ins.
For more information on TSC’s services, location, and how to sign up for an appointment, go to https://academics.iusb.edu/titan-success-center/index.html.