Meet Melissa Burwell, our director of the center of student success
Melissa Burwell, Carthage’s Director of the Center of Student Success, aids students by overseeing student success advisers, developing the College Success Seminar, and providing ongoing support and outreach to all Carthage students as part of the Holistic Advising Model. Get to know Ms. Burwell!
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What drew you to Carthage and how long have you been here?
“I started at Carthage in July 2020 and came to Carthage because of its commitment to ensuring the success of all students. I wanted to be part of a community that had the student experience in the center of all it does.”
What are the responsibilities of your position?
“I lead the Center for Student Success and oversee our team of student success advisors. We work together to support students as they transition to college, and we help them when they are faced with barriers to their success once in college. I also administer the SOS (our early alert system) and participate in a variety of committees including the Student Success Team and the Holistic Advising Leadership Team. Finally, I manage the Holistic Care Team and the Navigate Leadership Team as part of the Moon Shot for Equity initiative.”
What is your favorite thing about working at Carthage?
“I love my students and colleagues. Also, being right next to the lake is pretty great too!”
What is your best piece of advice for current Carthage students?
“This might seem super old-fashioned, but the following three things are the secret to success in college: Firstly, write down your to-do’s on a post-it note or in a notebook and review them regularly. Secondly, go to class. Thirdly, ask for help — going to college means learning to be interdependent, not just independent.”
What is something you’ve learned from working with students?
“Students have taught me to slow down and listen to what’s not being said as much as what is being said. They also teach me a lot about managing expectations — my own and others. I am reminded each day that this is their college journey, and it’s my job to walk beside them, not for them.”
You’ve worked at many different colleges and organizations throughout your career. What is one way that Carthage stands out?
“Carthage really cares about its students — there are lots of people who want students to be successful and are doing their best to make sure students have the resources they need to thrive.”
What is one thing that surprised you about working at Carthage?
“I started working in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the shadow of community challenges including the civil unrest in Kenosha. What has surprised me about Carthage is that we continued to teach and serve and work with students. While college looked different through face masks and social distancing, we still managed to teach and learn together.”
What are you most proud of accomplishing since starting at Carthage?
“This year was the first year of a new case management and holistic advising model for the Center for Student Success. I am proud that my team adjusted to their roles and found new ways of supporting students, including using data more strategically to inform our work. We also worked with campus partners to revamp our College Success Seminar curriculum, and I am looking forward to implementing that in the fall.”
How has COVID-19 affected your job?
“On the one hand, COVID-19 did not have a significant impact on my work as we continued to meet one-on-one and in small groups with students, albeit virtually. On the other hand, back-to-back Zoom meetings could be a challenge in trying to build rapport and connections with students. I missed students dropping by my office on their way to the cafeteria, and I missed not being able to do as much in-person programming for first-generation and international students as I had hoped.”
Is there anything you’d like to say to the parents of Carthage students?
“I want parents to know that resources like the Center for Student Success are here. Ask your student who their student success advisor is and encourage them to connect with them early in the school year. And if your student faces a challenge of any kind — whether as a first-year student or a senior — we are here to help. Know that you are not alone — we are happy to partner with your student and you to figure out a plan and a way forward.”