The emergence and significance of universities’ Offices of Student Success
Trachelle Iwamoto ’26 wasn’t quite sure what to expect when she arrived on campus from Kapa‘a, Kauai. Nor did Kryzandreah Español ’26 or Easton DelaCruz ’26. As freshmen, Iwamoto, Español and Dela Cruz felt anxious about the transition from high school to university, uncertain about the rigors of academia and their own self expectations.
It’s not uncommon for freshman to feel nervous when experiencing what many consider a rite of passage from the teen years to early adulthood. In response, universities have undergone significant transformations in recent years, marked by an increased focus on student success.
The concept of student success has evolved from a narrow focus on academic achievement to a more holistic approach, which encompasses personal growth, career readiness and well-being. Historically, universities primarily concentrated on instructional and administrative functions, with less emphasis on proactive student support. The changing dynamics of higher education, including shifting demographics, technological advancements and an increased awareness of the diverse needs of students, prompted the establishment of dedicated offices to address these challenges.
“In 2020, we re-evaluated our support services and designed a one-stop center—Office of Student Success—that includes academic advising, career development, tutoring and learning services, military student benefits, registrar and records, and study abroad,” says Jennifer Creech, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success. “We’re committed to providing comprehensive support and resources to ensure that students not only excel academically, but also thrive in their overall collegiate experience.”
Before the start of their freshman year, Español, Iwamoto and Dela Cruz all attended the Apo Haumana Retreat, a program introduced in 2021 as a faculty-led initiative to help first-year students transition to Chaminade through building connections with faculty and peers outside of the classroom.
“It gave me a foothold into the university,” Iwamoto says. “I met a lot of other students, staff and faculty who serve as mentors, and who were all welcoming and personable. I felt like they wanted to know who I was as a person.”
Now a peer advisor with the Apo Haumana program, DelaCruz works closely with the Office of Student Success to create helpful workshops for first-year students. He also mentors freshmen in the program to address different obstacles they may face throughout their first year.
“Having been a member of the program during my first year, I felt that it benefited me as I transitioned from high school to college,” says DelaCruz, who has ambitions to run for public office when he returns to Saipan. “Being part of this program is my way of giving back to Chaminade since I’ve personally received so much support in my academic journey.”
Many institutions offer programs specifically designed to support students during their first year, helping them smoothly shift into the university environment. At Chaminade, that support is tailored to each student. Unlike the past, according to Creech, interactions between advisers and students seemed transactional; students were being told what classes to take and what to do as opposed to the student owning his/her own educational journey.
“We’re here to help them navigate that journey,” Creech says. “Everything is tailored; it’s not one size fits all. We triage and assess the challenges students may be having to make sure that our Chaminade students succeed. We complement what the faculty are already doing—mentoring, advising and counseling. The Office simply adds another layer of support.
“When we re-structured the office, we leveraged technology and we updated our student portal,” Creech explains. “Today, we use predictive analysis to identify students who may be at risk and we intervene before they drop out.”
Research has shown a positive correlation between the presence of robust student success initiatives, and improved retention and graduation rates. By addressing challenges early, providing targeted interventions, and cultivating a supportive community, the Office of Student Success plays a crucial role in ensuring that students persist through their academic journeys and successfully attain their degrees.
“If I have a question or experience any difficulty, I’ll go to the Student Success Office,” says Español, who is studying to be a nurse and aspires to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. “I feel truly supported in every aspect of my academic journey here. Chaminade has created a supportive environment that extends beyond just academic assistance, making me feel connected and valued.”