Interview with Maddie Jarmola 2023 Student Success Champion

We spoke with 2023 Student Success Champion Maddie Jarmola, Assistant Dean for Retention and Persistence at St. Catherine University, about her experiences with being a Student Success Champion and her advice to those considering the program.

What aspect of the program has been most beneficial to you?

Dedicated time to work on the project (I find that in my day-to-day, this work can get “pushed to the side” as it involves more large-scale project work. The granular takes precedence, so having time to work on this task specifically is really helpful.)

Having others’ opinions on my project, especially from colleagues at similar institutions with similar challenges. Other champions brought in new questions for me and helped me reframe some struggles.

The community overall. It is like-minded people getting together over similar goals. The projects may be different, but the end goal, supporting students and helping them graduate, is the same.

The “you get it” moments I get to have with colleagues. Our work (especially in case management) can feel so isolating, so to meet with people who are experiencing the same thing and can empathize is great!

What surprised you most about the program?

The people. There is no “hierarchy” or politics involved. There are entry-level champions and associate provosts, but it feels like everyone’s opinion matters equally, and each person has something to bring to the table.

What were you concerned about when deciding whether to apply?

If I could “afford” the time away. It feels almost selfish to take time away to do project work that is related to my job but not the whole of it.

Whether or not my project was “good enough” or even achievable, but I have been reminded that, ultimately, it’s not about the project. It’s about investing in me and my ideas.

What advice would you give to someone applying?

Don’t overthink it. Just do it. The project does not have to be perfect, and you don’t need to have all the answers. You get two years to try to figure some things out. That is huge! This community is ready to support and “champion” you! And you deserve the time to work on something that will improve either your day-to-day job or your institution as a whole. This collective is a gift because it allows you to take a step outside your institution and think about the whole scope.

Read about Maddie’s Project