By Whitney Baxter
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help – that’s why we’re here.”
These tips are offered to students at Iowa State University by three new student services employees from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Justin Roberson, Student Retention Coordinator, and Greer Potadle, SMART STEPS Coordinator, joined Esperanza Moothart, Emergency Support Coordinator, on the CALS Student Services team in early January. Moothart has been part of student services since last fall. Together, the three will provide holistic services to help CALS students succeed in their college careers.
Gather the tools needed to succeed
Roberson comes to CALS Student Services after spending time with the Iowa State Residence Department as a hall director at Geoffrey Hall. In this role, he organized training for student staff and worked to make diversity efforts a priority.
He looks forward to working not only with CALS students, but also with college faculty, staff and administration to see how student services can be improved. One of its goals is to connect students to resources offered by colleges and universities.
“I want to help retain students in CALS so they can achieve their dreams,” Roberson said. “CALS is a great place to gain the knowledge and experience to make those dreams come true, but we want to make sure someone is there to help along the way when students need help.”
He said that between him, Moothart and Potadle, their team will look at all aspects of student support.
Adopting SMART STEPS to improve educational outcomes
A 2018 Animal Science graduate, Potadle loves working with students and is thrilled to lead a program she helped create as a former CALS student services student worker.
Unique to CALS, SMART (Student Management and Academic Response Team) STEPS began as a pilot program in the spring of 2019. Its goal is to provide individualized plans to improve the academic performance of CALS students who have grade point averages below 2, 0.
Since then, the program has helped over 100 CALS students through one-on-one mentorship, tutoring services, goal setting, progress report writing and more. Potadle expects about 50 students to enroll in the program this semester.
“I’m excited to actually be in the thick of it and really help them out,” Potadle said.
Students are usually involved in the program for one semester, although Potadle said they can stay involved as long as they want.
A “lifeline” in emergency situations
Moothart knows firsthand the relief support that the CALS Student Services office can offer. She received an emergency grant to help fund her education at Iowa State, allowing her to graduate in May 2021 with a degree in Global Resource Systems.
She now works with students like her who need emergency and completion grants to help fund their college education when faced with difficult circumstances.
“We understand how the stress of financial issues can add to concerns students may already have about classes and other responsibilities,” Moothart said. “We want to help take some of that stress away.”
Moothart’s assistance goes beyond financial need. It can also help students connect to resources to overcome mental and physical barriers impacting their education.
She encourages students not to be afraid to ask for help – she and her colleagues in the CALS Student Services office are there to help guide students through difficult situations. And if they don’t have all the answers, they will connect students with other resources at the university or in the community.
“The hardest part is asking for help. After that, the navigation is relatively smooth,” said Moothart.
The CALS Student Services office is located at 0020 Curtiss Hall and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students can contact Roberson, Potadle and Moothart by email: