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Sausen, Schwing Help SMSU Students Become a SUCCESS

Published Friday, February 04, 2022
Jeet Sausen, left, and Nicole Schwing
Jeet Sausen, left, and Nicole Schwing

Two Minnesota natives are guiding the path for the pilot phase of the Scaling Up College Completion Efforts for Student Success (SUCCESS) Program at Southwest Minnesota State University. Jeet Sausen, the SUCCESS Program Coordinator, and Nicole Schwing, the SUCCESS Program Coach, are leading the way for this new program. 

“I was always excited about SMSU,” said Schwing, a 2017 alumna. “I had never felt like just a number here, professors actually cared about me. After doing a general job search, I saw this position had opened up. It fit exactly what I wanted to do, and it was where I wanted to be. This couldn’t have been a more perfect fit.”

Sausen has had higher education experience at Penn State, and was looking for a position because she and her husband were moving back to Minnesota. “I was actually on my way to another interview when I got the offer for the job here. The community is small and family-oriented, and I had a really good feeling the entire interview process,” said Sausen.

The SUCCESS Program at SMSU is in its pilot stage, thanks to the support of Minnesota State and MDRC, a nonprofit research organization that leads the national SUCCESS network. Participants in the program must be either a first-year or transfer students (with 60 or less credits) who qualify for a Pell Grant, are students of color, or are first-generation attendees.

Students who qualify are then paired with either Schwing or Sausen and meet with them twice a month for 30-minute, one-on-one coaching sessions to discuss anything and everything. It’s an opportunity for the students to talk, and both Schwing and Sausen listen. A $50/month incentive is provided to the students who attend the two required monthly meetings.

Schwing is a former editor of the SMSU student newspaper, the Spur. “I loved working with students and being their support for them in their successes. I loved hearing people’s stories and being able to help them on their journey, it was the best reward I could get.”  

Sausen agrees. “I think that Nicole being an alumna helps bring validity to our program. It shows that the university invests in its alumni and brings them back to have them help grow their Mustang Pride, and show the value of what an SMSU degree can do.” 

Fostering the relationship between the students and coaches is a passion Schwing and Sausen share. Teaching students about things outside of the classroom is also something they help with. Neither had been associated with anything similar to the SUCCESS Program, and are excited to be involved in helping students reach their personal and educational goals.

“This is something that seems so simple on the outside, but it truly does have a lasting impact on the students,” Sausen said. “If our job is to provide an equitable place for students to grow and develop, then this program is a great way to help us meet that goal and make that educational experience more attainable.”