The University of Central Florida was honored in November with the National Association of Branch Campus Administrators’ 2020 George Giacumakis Innovation Award in recognition for the implementation of the UCF Connect Center Project, which introduced the success coaching model to support transfer students from recruitment through graduation. The inaugural award acknowledges “an academic institution with off-site location(s) whose staff or faculty did something to strategically move the location or institution forward.”

“NABCA selected the UCF-Connect Locations’ Connect Center Project as the recipient for their award in recognition of their innovative practice of holistic student coaching,” says Jane Morgan, chair of the NABCA Partnerships Committee. “Their results for a better student service model which improved student outcomes and simultaneously served to reinvigorate the passion and commitment of the staff resonated with all members of the award application review team.”

According to the award announcement, the UCF Connect Center’s “student service model has student success coaches offering concierge-level services that start at recruitment and continue through graduation. A student stays with the same coach throughout their academic journey allowing for relationship-based interactions.”

NABCA provides professional development, best practices, research, networking and support for administrators and faculty in higher education. George Giacumakis, the award’s namesake, was the originator of the idea for an association dedicated to meeting the professional needs of administrators in higher education who worked at branch campuses.

“It’s a tremendous honor for our UCF Connect Centers to be named the inaugural innovation award winner by the National Association of Branch Campus Administrators,” says Pam Cavanaugh, associate vice provost for UCF Connect says: “The transformation of our regional campuses to Connect Centers has been inspiring to observe how we’ve moved from student service and brick and mortar operations to full-engagement centers focusing on preparation, pathways, transition and success using success coaching.”

The UCF Connect Centers introduced success coaching in 2017 as a way to better engage students in an interactive, participatory way throughout their academic journey, from application to graduation. As a complement to traditional college advisors, success coaches guide students using techniques designed to assist them with direction, focus and life challenges outside the classroom.

This approach has resulted in what UCF Connect leaders describe as a unified gold standard experience for students at 11 UCF Connect Center locations: Altamonte Springs, Cocoa, Daytona Beach, Leesburg, Ocala, Palm Bay, Sanford/Lake Mary, South Lake, Valencia East, Valencia Osceola and Valencia West. These locations extend the reach of the university from its main Orlando campus into seven surrounding Central Florida counties, thanks to the award-winning DirectConnect to UCF partnership, which provides guaranteed admission to students who earn an associate degree from one of six partner institutions (College of Central Florida, Daytona State College, Eastern Florida State College, Lake-Sumter State College, Seminole State College and Valencia College).

In May, UCF awarded the 50,000th bachelor’s degree to a DirectConnect to UCF transfer student, exemplifying the program’s important contribution to the university’s mission to provide access to a high-quality college degree to as many qualified to students as possible.

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