University implements program for students on academic probation

JohnRae Stowers offers support and guidance through a new program to help students facing academic probation. Photo by Elise Krivit/

Students on academic probation now have an additional resource for help with their studies available at the Office of Student Educational Services.

The program, led by Academic Services Coordinator JohnRae Stowers, helps students plan strategies to end their academic probation or avoid being placed on it in the future. It also integrates reflection into study skills and suggests changes students can make in their daily lives to benefit their schoolwork.

Stowers was hired specifically to run the program introduced this year and to provide students with resources to resolve their academic troubles. Students will first be contacted for an initial meeting with Stowers before their progress is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Some of Marquette’s colleges already have their own programs in place for students who are at academic risk. Others may now require their students on academic probation to make an appointment with Stowers.

Although academic probation differs from college to college, Stowers will be a resource to any student at Marquette.

Karen Desotelle, director of the Office of Student Educational Services, said an initial appointment is not meant to be seen as a punishment but rather as a supportive discussion to assist the student.

“We don’t see our role as making students do anything … (the students) know what works,” she said.

Desotelle said the first step in the meeting would be to address the situation that caused the student to end up on academic probation and plan the next step. She said a range of factors, such as a family crisis, health problems or emotional issues, could cause a student’s grades to drop.

Sometimes, Desotelle said the cause may be self-explanatory and a student may not want or need any further assistance. In all cases, she said Stowers can refer a student to the Career Services Center or the counseling center, discuss tutoring options or work on study skills and time management.

“It’s a huge self-esteem blow to be in that situation,” Desotelle said.

She said they were looking to create a program that focuses on moving forward and not rehashing past academic experiences in order to to encourage students to help themselves instead.

Because students enter college expecting to do well, Desotelle said academic probation makes them very self-conscious and even embarrassed. She said the program was created to empower and support students.

Neither Desotelle nor Stowers decide if a student is removed from academic probation. Students must meet the requirements set by their college. For example, the College of Education requires students to meet certain requirements to be in good standing because they work with an external certifying agency.

Desotelle said the Office of Student Educational Services will act as a resource to both the colleges and students.

Stowers’ position was created in part due to new legislation by the Department of Education.

Anne Deahl, associate vice provost for academic support programs and retention, said in October 2010, the U.S. Department of Education announced its Program Integrity regulations for universities. One such regulation required institutions where students receive federal financial aid to have a program in place to assist students who lose their aid and must appeal to get it back once they are in good standing.

The Satisfactory Academic Progress, a measure of a student’s successful progress used by the Department of Education, helped to create Stowers’ position because it requires a more detailed planning process for students. But Deahl said the position was thought of even before the education initiative was announced as a requirement.

“We did not create this position solely because of this legislation,” she said. “It was well in the works already.”

Stowers said she heard of the position while she was closing out her work with a nonprofit college readiness program at Marquette. She said she loved working at the university and was familiar with giving guidance and advice to students.

Though she has only been in this position since August, Stowers said she has seen students benefit, and some have even recommended their friends to see her.

“I think students appreciate having an outlet to talk,” she said. “(The program’s) role has been really really positive for the university.”