Once upon a time, there was a Provost, named Lawrence Abele, who believed that meaningful connections with university staff could positively influence student retention on a college campus. At a conference, Provost Abele came upon a company offering to coach college-level students. He brought the idea back to FSU and presented it to Undergraduate Studies Dean Karen Laughlin, who in turn proposed the idea to Advising First (AF) management. After some discussion, it was decided to ask AF advisors for a few volunteers to pilot a coaching program with a small portion of their roster. After seeing the results, a beta program ensued which included 20 volunteer advisors. The results were astonishing; the Provost knew he had struck gold! *cue dramatic music*

The Advising First Center for Success Coaching became an official program in 2009. With the support of Institutional Research, populations vulnerable to attrition were identified – students from out of state, living off-campus, receiving Pell grants, entering with 52+ credit hours, and AA transfers. There was a program manager and 12 coaches who work with freshmen students. Over time, the program expanded. In 2010, three lines were added to include second-year CARE students because data showed many students were not returning their third year. Fast forward to present day, there is a program manager, an assistant program manager, 11 FTIC (first time in college) coaches, and four CARE coaches.

The coaching program originally contracted with a company called Inside Track (ITK)®. Primarily, ITK® provided coaching services to college students over the phone, but Provost Abele envisioned using full time university staff to provide the coaching. AF collaborated with the company to train advisors (during the pilots) and coaches so that students had face-to-face meetings. ITK® sent trainers annually, provided a manual and offered support throughout the academic year. The company also offered certifications, ranging from Level 1 to Master Level. Students who were not a part of the pre-selected populations were able to meet with an ITK® coach, via phone, for a fee. In 2015, the name changed to the Advising First Center for College Life Coaching, and the program developed an in-house coaching program which includes skills, a model and learning outcomes. The Dynamic Circular Model was published in the International Coach Federation’s Coaching World Magazine! Five coaches authored the training manual.

The identity of the AF coaching program continues to expand on campus and in the higher education community. Populations of students invited to coaching now include First Year Abroad, Seminole Pathways, and conditionally admitted Spring students. Students who are not pre-selected can complete the online application; the program offers Coach Skills Training through the Human Resources Department. Annually, the coaching center hosts the College Life Coaching Institute which brings institutions together from all over the world to learn about coaching at FSU. Participants receive coach skills training and attend sessions on how to develop a new or update an existing coaching program. At the third annual conference (June 2018), the event reached maximum capacity! The AF Coaching Program was also featured on the NACADA Coaching Advising Community’s Spotlight Series.

Why coaching? What makes it so significant to the student experience? Meetings take place every other week for 20-25 minutes, and students get to discuss topics that are important to their transition to college; coaches do not have an agenda. Students are encouraged to set academic, professional, and personal goals and know that their coach is going to be there to support them through the process. The frequent meetings help build the trusting connection that invites students to openly and safely discuss their successes and challenges. Coaches get to empower students to become authors of their own life and support the student as they find their place within the FSU community. Since the program’s inception, retention in the vulnerable populations has increased by 5-10%.


Shae Roberts

Written by: LaShae Roberts, Assistant Director of Advising First – Center for College Life Coaching