Campus News

Transforming the student experience

Taz Qadri, pre-physician associate and veterinary advisor, talks with undergraduate student Zoya McCook about her academic future in studying to be a physician assistant. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

How UGA is working behind the scenes to set students up for success

Across the university, initiatives from financial help to tutoring are underway to help students complete their degrees at the University of Georgia.

“We’re educating tomorrow’s leaders, and as the world changes, education changes,” said Marisa Pagnattaro, vice president for instruction. “We’re making changes that students need to thrive at UGA. We’re adding more tutoring options, reworking academic probation and implementing changes to keep the best advisors at UGA. This university is a vibrant community that works toward the greater good of the campus and ultimately the state of Georgia.”

Academic help

UGA’s Division of Academic Enhancement offers free peer tutoring in over 200 undergraduate courses and for standardized tests. Tutoring is available in the form of either one-on-one appointments in person or over Zoom or in study pods, both in-person at locations across campus.

The Presentation Collaboratory Fellows Program, which was established in 2021, helps students create effective presentations and develop their public speaking skills. This program is open to all students who make an appointment.

Connect & Complete is a new program that serves students who are experiencing academic difficulties that may lead to academic probation. The program identifies and proactively reaches out to these students to provide resources and support to move beyond those difficulties and avoid probation.

Currently in a pilot phase, Connect & Complete includes an Early Alert component that notifies students whose term Grade Point Average is below a 2.0. DAE then invites these students to meet with an Academic Coach to discuss and brainstorm solutions to academic challenges or enroll in a UNIV academic success course. This Early Alert would impact around 1,700 students annually by providing proactive support; addressing barriers to success; and connecting them to relevant resources.

Experiential Learning Scholarships

To help students with UGA’s Experiential Learning requirement, scholarships of up to $2,500 are available to offset the cost of travel or housing associated with internships or study away  programs that fulfill their EL requirement. For the 2022 academic year, 179 students received $435,500 in scholarships.

Destiny Favors, a 2021 graduate, was an EL scholarship recipient. She used her scholarship fund to board an airplane for the first time in her life to travel to Spain, where she spent seven weeks studying at the Universidad de Sevilla. “This experience has helped me academically by improving my Spanish, and personally by instilling confidence in myself, and socially by making lifelong friends.”

Help for rural students

There are currently over 3,000 rural undergraduates at the University of Georgia. UGA has seen a 26% increase in the number of rural students matriculating between Fall 2015 and Fall 2021. Through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship campaign, around 100 students receive scholarships that donors set up for rural students or students from specific counties or regions.

ALL Georgia Program

Started in 2018, the ALL Georgia Program was recently renewed for an additional six years by UGA President Jere W. Morehead. The program aims to improve the withdrawal and four-year graduation rates for rural students and to deliver targeted programming and support. “The purpose of ALL Georgia is to welcome students and connect them to resources that will support their academic success. Ultimately, it’s about helping them find their community and equipping them to navigate UGA,” said program coordinator Graff Wilson.

All rural students have access to student success courses and workshops, peer tutoring, academic coaching, leadership development, employment opportunities, support for Experiential Learning, engagement with UGA’s national Rural Student Success conference and a variety of social events. The goal is to encourage deeper learning, academic success, and community building to help rural students find their place at UGA.

Twenty-four students are named ALL Georgia Scholars. In addition to the scholarship, Scholars receive four years of targeted programming that focuses on academic enrichment; advising and access to mentoring; leadership development; academic and life-skills support and community engagement.. In their third year, scholars have access to an immersive service-learning project, such as IMPACT Service Break, a year-long leadership program and mentoring hosted by UGA Student Affairs, summer internships, leadership development, and service opportunities.

New for fall 2022, the Rural Student Ambassadors will connect with prospective and new students from rural areas.

Students report that ALL Georgia gives them guidance and a sense of belonging. Madison Britt (A.B. 2020, M.A. 2022) from Vidalia said that “Before coming to UGA, I went to school with the same 180 people for 13 years. Coming to Athens was daunting, but I soon discovered that UGA was a small town in itself…ALL Georgia allowed me to meet students with similar backgrounds. As a member [of the ALL Georgia student executive board], I worked to help build a sense of community for other rural students here at UGA.”

Completion Grants

For students with financial need who have one semester remaining to graduate, the Office of Student Financial Aid offers one-time completion grants. The grants are typically between $500 and the maximum award of $2,000. Priority for the Completion Grant is given to students who have exhausted their Federal Direct Student Loan or Federal Pell Grant lifetime eligibility.

Keeping the best advisors at UGA

At UGA, every student must meet with an academic advisor before registering for classes. Advisors play a pivotal role in student success by helping their students craft a good schedule and stay on track for graduation.

Eight additional academic advisors have been hired university-wide to support students in high-demand areas. UGA has around 150 undergraduate advisors in schools, colleges and the Exploratory Center.

Taz Qadri has been an advisor at UGA since 2018. She advises more than 300 pre-medical and pre-veterinary school students a semester in the Pre-Professional Advising Office. Her job is more than making sure students take their major requirements. She plans field trips to schools with medical and veterinary programs, presents to high schools, and helps UGA students with their personal statements, resumes and applications to medical or veterinary school.

To her, advising is more than making sure students take their major requirements.

She remembers how lost she felt when navigating the university atmosphere when she was in college. “I had an advisor but found they only gave what was necessary and never went beyond that scope. Students need to know more, need to know all venues and resources whether they need them or not but can be made aware of what their university offers.”

For her, the best feeling is getting good news from a student—that they got into their top school, and it wouldn’t have happened without her. It gives her a sense of accomplishment that she’s helping future generations