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Hendrix Staff and Students Make Presentations at Conference for Student Affairs Professionals

CONWAY, Ark. (December 3, 2021) – Hendrix College staff and students presented two separate workshops at the recent 2021 NASPA Region IV-West Conference held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, November 8-9 and virtually on November 10-11. As an organization for student affairs professionals in higher education, NASPA holds conferences for professionals, graduate preparation faculty, and graduate students.

Representing Hendrix College were Director of Student Outreach Services (SOS) Christy Coker; economics major Reilly O’Neill ’23, fall 2021 team leader of Student Outreach Alternative Resources (SOAR); and computer science and health sciences double-major Alexandria Cade ’23, mentor-mentee liaison with SOAR for 2021-22. They presented on Realizing Improved Student Engagement (RISE), SOS, and SOAR.

Coker introduced RISE to the conference attendees by emphasizing the strong collaboration between Academic Success and SOS in providing post-first semester support for students who may not have done as well as they had intended. Incoming first-year students are engaged from the moment they arrive on campus in all aspects of independent living and academic responsibilities. Some students struggle to retain the massive amount of information they receive in the first few weeks of college. RISE provides the opportunity for students who are or have been struggling to stop, take a step back, and regroup. In doing so, students discern how to move forward in a positive manner without dwelling on past perceived failures. Because the past is no longer a barrier, students can look forward to their successes. RISE objectives include learning to re-think and re-establish personal, social, and community goals; increasing introspection, self-awareness, and self-acceptance; and organizing and strengthening time management and study skills.

Coker, O’Reilly, and Cade discussed SOS and SOAR, the relationship between the two, and outcomes of the holistic program for students learning to “adult.” Many institutions of higher education have expectations that teens arriving on campus automatically will assume an adult role. The orientation provided upon first-year student arrival to campus introduces, but does not have the ability to enhance, aspects of adulting.

SOS engages all segments of the student population with mentor services, resources, programs, networks, intervention and/or prevention to increase successful and positive student experiences throughout their time in the college community. A unique and progressive program, SOS is designed to support students as they transition from high school and home life to college and future life through a structured, collaborative, and confidential process. That transition process requires engagement and re-engagement in a continuous cycle via communication and supportive programs. This transition begins with a holistic and total wellness conversation between SOS and the student before connecting the student with other avenues. Coker presented the construct and methodology of holistic assessment and connecting students to people, services, programs, etc., both on and off campus for personal, academic, and community growth.

SOAR is the flagship program of SOS, with upper-class campus leaders who want to make a difference in the lives of incoming students serving as peer mentors – not academically, but personally, socially, and in the community. O’Reilly and Cade are the co-team leaders for SOAR this semester and shared the process of student recruitment, involvement, common practices, and appreciation. 

With a team of 35 students, SOAR focuses on peer-mentoring through one-on-one conversations as well as smaller, quieter on-campus events for those individuals not interested in loud music or larger gatherings. Each SOAR member is certified to aid in personal and social support with 65 hours of intense training in Mentoring 101, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), safeTALK (suicide prevention and intervention), Escalation/One Love (relationship violence signs and intervention), Emotional Intelligence (EI/EQ), Title IX and Clery Act, Public Safety support, and identification for substance emergencies.

SOAR also oversees alternative events for students; collaborative events for students, faculty, staff, and alumni; Second Saturday Suppers and Itza Pizza Nites for when the Dining Hall is closed; holiday food pantry for students who remain on campus during breaks; and off-campus events. By creating unique avenues, SOAR provides a safe, enjoyable experience for students, helping first-year students build a stronger, more fluid transition into college life and making SOAR a refreshing haven of good friendships and lasting memories.

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit