California State University, Fullerton

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Graduation Specialists Make Sure Students Get That Diploma

March 10, 2015

Three weeks before graduation, Sarah St. Martin learned she was shy three units for her degree.

Fortunately, she had graduation specialist Mary Lehn-Mooney to turn to in the College of Health and Human Development.

Lehn-Mooney is one of a cadre of specialists working to keep Cal State Fullerton students on track to graduation. With their support and direction, a more students are fulfilling their dream of a college education.

"I got in touch with Mary and we discussed my options," said St. Martin '14 (B.S. child and adolescent development). "She found a course ... and I completed it over the summer. She helped me through the process and provided support. I think graduation specialists are a fantastic asset to the University."

Shelby Buller '14 (B.S. health science) agreed. "If it wasn't for Mary, my diploma wouldn't be hanging on my wall right now. She answers every question a soon-to-be graduate could possibly have, in order to successfully make it to graduation day."

"We're a one-stop shop, helping students review not only their major, but their general education requirements, and making sure they are on track," said Ashley Stilley, graduation specialist in the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.

Stilley began working with seniors in March 2014 and was able to increase the college's graduation rate by 41 students for May commencement; by summer, she had helped an additional 68 students earn their diplomas.

Advisers in every college are seeing similar success rates.

"We anticipated that we would see positive results in two years, but we began seeing them right away," said Josh Loudon, interim assistant director of academic advising.

Working from a list of candidates, and beginning up to a year ahead of commencement, these special advisers contact each prospective graduate to assess where they stand in terms of units and coursework, and follow up through the semester to make sure they remain on track.

"It's been so successful," said Stilley, "We're now working with juniors to alert them to their standing and assess their plan to complete in a timely fashion."

"I love this position because it allows me to be an educator, a creative problem-solver, an encouraging voice for our students. I also get to collaborate with colleagues who feel the same way," said Lehn-Mooney.

Molly Petersdorf, a senior criminal justice major, credits the efforts of graduation specialist Brittney Hofer in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences for getting her on track for this year's commencement.

"Brittney has been a huge help for me," explains Petersdorf. "Without her, I would have taken many classes I didn't need. With her help, we were able to find a better path to graduate in May."

Similar results are being reported by all eight colleges. Clearly, the men and women who constitute the University's corps of graduation specialists can measure their impact in diplomas received. And in graduates.

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