California State University, Long Beach
Inside CSULB Logo

Partners for Success

Published: January 23, 2017

Second-year students on academic probation have a powerful resource on campus to draw on when they participate in Partners for Success.

Partners for Success has provided faculty mentoring for students, particularly first-generation students, since 1987. For a variety of reasons, many first-generation students find it challenging to complete their college education. In an effort to retain and matriculate these students in the university, Partners for Success, co-sponsored by Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, pairs students with faculty mentors.

Faculty mentors in Partners for Success, now in its 28th year, provide ongoing, dedicated contacts with students. According to the CSULB Institutional Research and Assessment Office, students who participated in the program have achieved a graduation rate of 78 percent. Nationally, the approximate six-year graduation rate for universities similar to CSULB is 55 percent.

“As CSULB has evolved, we needed to decide what population had the greatest need,” explained Jeff Klaus, associate vice president for Student Affairs and a co-director of Partners for Success. “We found very little attention was being paid to sophomores on academic probation. There are a lot of major decisions that occur during the sophomore year including declaring a major. There is even something called ‘the sophomore slump.’ We decided to help sophomores who were on their first or second semester of academic probation. Currently, 155 students are enrolled in the program with 30 faculty mentors from all the colleges. We are fortunate that our dedicated faculty who have been part of the program tend to stay. They’re so committed to students that they’re willing to put in the extra time to help students succeed.”

The populations served by the program have changed over 28 years.

“When it first started, students ‘opted’ in,” said Klaus. “They chose to seek out a mentor and Partners would match them. But now, when a student is placed on probation as they enter their second year at CSULB, they are automatically placed in our program. That changes the dynamic of the mentor-student relationship. What I’ve found in my research, though, is that the students who attend at least three or more sessions with their faculty mentor are clearing probation. We see a correlation there.”

A willingness to listen is key to a good mentor, Klaus believes.

“I see this constantly,” he said. “Our faculty take students from different disciplines and really listen to their stories. Some of our students travel for hours just to attend classes and may have financial hurdles they must jump. They need someone to help navigate the campus and connect them to the resources based on their individual needs. Through this experience, the students learn there is someone at the campus who genuinely cares about them and they’re not just a number. This helps create a sense of belonging and community for the student.”

partners for success log

Partners for Success uses Individual Solution Strategies for College Students (ISSc) which is a Solution-Focused Brief Counseling intervention designed by CSULB faculty member and mentor Keith Fulthorp. It helps students think critically about their academic progress and develop unrecognized solutions that contribute to their success.

“Our mentors meet with students at least three times during their first semester in the program using these strategies. The objective is to increase their GPA and get them off academic probation. The ultimate goal is for them to persist at the university and graduate,” said Klaus.

“We know from national research that mentoring has a significant impact on the life of a student. Partners for Success wants to foster those relationships,” he added. “I’m proud of our university’s willingness to continue to adapt the program to serve the student populations who are in the greatest need. Students in Partners for Success are not affiliated with any other programs. If they are a student-athlete or participate in EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) for example, they stay there. Partners for Success aims for students who are unaffiliated because these are the students with the greatest potential for falling through the cracks.”

Student feedback has been positive, with many describing their participation as a life-changing experience.

“Having that relationship with a faculty mentor can help to shape their future careers and open opportunities they would not have had otherwise,” said Klaus. “Many of our faculty mentors continue their relationships with the students even after the program has succeeded and the students are off academic probation. Our faculty help create an environment where students feel supported and appreciated for what they bring to the campus.”

Partners for Success signals the university’s continued commitment to student success.

“We never rest,” Klaus said. “We continue to look for new opportunities to serve. This program represents a 28-year collaboration between academic and student affairs identifying a need and figuring out how to work together to put the best program in place to serve students.”

January is National Mentoring Month