College can be a scary and stressful change for students. Moving away from home, making new friends, and adjusting to the rigorous academics all at once can be overwhelming. However, USF has acknowledged that students need personal support, equally as much as academic support, and has created CASA to provide a home away from home.
CASA, the Center for Academic and Student Achievement, consists of a team of 12 university advisers. In addition, CASA has an administrative team helping run the program. CASA provides support programs such as New Student Orientation, The Back-on-Track Program for students on academic probation, and the Student Success Workshops. CASA’s vision started back in 2011 when Provost Jennifer Turpin wanted to centralize all the support services for students.
So what differentiates CASA from your academic advisors?
Laleh Shahideh, associate vice provost and dean of Student Academic Services, said that the center’s goals is to provide a holistic approach to student support. Faculty advisors are assigned to students specifically by major, whereas university advisors are specialized to provide not only academic, mental and personal support beyond helping students select classes.
“The difference is that when a student goes to see their faculty academic advisor, they are extremely knowledgeable in the discipline such as academics or careers in the student’s major,” she said. “But when you come and see a CASA staff member, for example, if a student wants to drop a class, we try to get to the bottom of the issue and see what the students really need.”
Shahideh said that CASA has two objectives and that is to improve retention and increase four-year graduation rates. According to Shahideh, since CASA started in fall of 2012, retention rates have already increased to 90 percent.
“[Students] may have financial issues, or family issues, or a learning disability that they do not know about. Those are the things then that we try to address or if we can’t then we connect them with proper referrals on campus such as the counseling center or student disability services,” Shahideh said.
Anna Cross, one of the university advisers and director of Communication and Student Outreach, said she was intrigued by the concept and the merging of multiple resources and services across campus into one space.
Cross used to work in admissions but said one of her favorite aspects of her job is interacting with students and getting know them. “Now I have the chance to see them start off at square one as a freshman, and work with them as they develop into passionate, brilliant, and mature young men and women during their four years here,” she said.
Students at USF also find CASA to be beneficial to them. “Working with CASA was really easy. I just walked in and they processed my paper work, and they said it would be finished by the end of today,” said freshman Andy Woodhull. The undeclared student took the wrong rhetoric class last semester and visited CASA for more information on taking an advanced course. “ I thought it was going to take 10-15 minutes, but it really took only about two seconds.”
To learn more about CASA visit the center on the UC 3rd Floor or visit www.usfca.edu/casa
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