February 12, 2008



Jessica Smothers, Student Success Coordinator, 657-2021
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU Billings Student Success Coordinator puts renewed focus on retaining students 


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — If you didn’t see her behind a desk or in a staff meeting, it would be easy to assume that Jessica Smothers is just another student at Montana State University Billings.


photo of Jessica SmothersHer youthful appearance overshadows seven years of experience working in the student services arena. And her boundless energy and ever-present smile are a testament to the passion she brings to her job.


Which makes Smothers a perfect fit as MSU Billings’ new Student Success Coordinator.


“I’m so excited to being a part of this,” she said.


Smothers, who has been at MSU Billings since July 2001, will be working with faculty, staff and students to find ways to meet their various needs in order to ensure academic success.


Dr. Stacey Klippenstein, the MSU Billings vice chancellor for student affairs, said the position is an academic equivalent to a customer service coordinator in a business setting.


“It puts a focus on retention of our students, which is always a major part of a university’s enrollment management plan,” said Klippenstein.


University students increasingly bring complex issues to campus and choose to manage their academic careers and personal lives in a variety of ways. Many students work jobs and juggle family obligations on top of their academic responsibilities and need a point person to help them find solutions to those challenges when they need them.


At MSU Billings, about 50 percent of the students are first-generation college students while about 30 percent have families and/or children to support. Nearly 80 percent also have jobs.


Smothers is now working with faculty in various academic departments to let them know about her role and how she can assist them in keeping students on track. Faculty members make it their jobs to educate students and guide them, she said, but with classes of 20 students, it becomes more difficult to meet individual needs.


“We’re developing contacts as we go,” she said. “There are a lot of possibilities.


“Every campus has retention issues, but we are doing things to understand them,” she continued. “I view myself as a resource for students… someone to come to and work with.”


While she will work throughout the university, Smothers’ base of operations will be Room 2 in the Academic Support Center just south of the Student Union Building on the main campus.  The Academic Support Center’s focus is to provide services to support the academic success of all MSU Billings students. There are support centers at both the main campus and at the College of Technology on Central Avenue.


At the support center, tutors are available for developmental math, English and reading classes. Tutors also are available in other courses such as statistics, biology, chemistry, Spanish, accounting, economics and psychology depending upon tutor availability.  The support center also offers an online tutoring service — Write Lab — for students needing papers critiqued.


Klippenstein said Smothers’ location in the Academic Support Center reinforces the university’s commitment to supporting students at all points of their careers.


“Jessica will be able to work with faculty and others to identify issues at any point in the semester and respond appropriately,” Klippenstein said.


Prior to her work as Student Success Coordinator, Smothers worked in the Office of New Student Services, in Advising and the Office of International Studies.


For those who want to know more about Smothers and her new position, there will be an open house at the ASC on Wednesday, Feb. 20 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Refreshments will be provided. She can be reached at 657-2021 or by email at jsmothers@msubillings.edu