Student sits and talks with completion coach at a table with two laptop computers

Roar 2 Success Helps First-Year Students Excel


For first-year students at Buffalo State College who are not already affiliated with a program like the Educational Opportunity Program or the Honors Program, ROAR 2 Success offers a variety of services to help them build the skills and gain the traction they need to make it to the finish line.

Started in 2018 through a $2.19 million Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education as part of its “Strengthening Institutions” program, ROAR 2 Success offers guidance, advocacy, and support, said Shawnté Wilson, associate director of Student Leadership and Engagement.

“We work with students throughout the entirety of their first year,” she said. “In that time, we work to build skills, connect students with resources, and provide advocacy. It’s all in an effort to build self-sufficiency that will allow them to have a more successful transition into their second year.”

Recognizing that overall performance in the first year of college—when students begin to form vital connections with faculty, staff, peers, and resources—typically predicts future academic success, the program provides customized support.

Each student enrolled in the ROAR 2 Success program is assigned a completion coach who assists the student throughout the year in meeting his or her goals, Wilson said. It’s recommended that students meet with their coach at least once a month, or biweekly for students having difficulty.

Student sits and talks with completion coach at a table with two laptop computers

Student Jade Calvin-Nau (left) meets with ROAR 2 Success completion coach Douglas Hoston.

Skills and services the program aims to improve or provide include organization and time management; pre-registration advisement; registration tutorials; on- and off-campus resource connections; goal planning; social support connections; and financial aid guidance. Students also receive peer mentoring, access to special events, and access to the ROAR 2 Success lounge (closed temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic). Students can chat live with a completion coach Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., via the website.

“Our goal is not to be the expert but to make students experts at navigating the Buffalo State community.”

- Shawnté Wilson, M.S.W., Associate Director, Student Leadership and Engagement

COVID-19 has been a “formidable adversary,” Wilson said, but despite that, the program has still been able to make a difference with students. The program’s four completion coaches have met with more than 550 first-year students, either in person or virtually, since the academic year began; they’ve also connected nearly 500 additional students to campus resources. 

“Having even one opportunity to calm the nerves of a student and help them feel like college is obtainable is a success in our book,” she said. 

Heading into the last winter break, Wilson said, the program decided to be proactive and reach out to students. They were surprised by the number of students who appreciated the outreach and stayed in contact throughout the break.

“We don’t profess to have all the answers, but we care, and we take time to listen and connect students to what they need the most.”

Completion coaches are trained to listen to students in a way that allows for enhanced assessment and a better chance to build ongoing rapport, Wilson said. They’re constantly looking for ways to improve their connections to students. The program holds meet-and-greets in the Campbell Student Union and tries to keep up on student trends, to be prepared for what students are thinking, and adapt to the changes. 

“We also constantly solicit feedback from peer mentors and the students served to gain insight on what we can improve,” she said. “The goal is to adapt as needed so that students stay at the heart of what we are doing.”

Wilson said it takes a village to raise a student, and the program aims to give them the confidence to navigate college and be successful.

“Our goal is not to be the expert but to make students experts at navigating the Buffalo State community,” she said. “We all care about students and have something to offer them.”

Photos by Bruce Fox, campus photographer.