Castleton’s support team

The next time you are stopped by a professor or an advisor and asked to meet with them, don’t panic. It may actually be for your benefit.

The Castleton Support Team is a team of eight administrators and counselors for the benefit of the university’s student body. The primary purpose of the team is to support students with personal, academic, or financial challenges that may hinder their success here at Castleton.

            “Here’s how it works: A professor will complete a referral form,” said Dorothy Dahm, a professor at Castleton and the facilitator of the Support Team meetings, “That referral form will end up in my email inbox. What I do then is I email the student’s faculty and ask those student’s professors to complete a referral form on behalf of the student,”

            From there, Dahm and the rest of the team will ask an individual with the best connection to the student, such as an advisor or coach, to reach out to the student.

            “It really depends on the nature of the problem, how easy that student is to contact and to whom that student has the best rapport (with),” Dahm said.

            The program, according to Dr. Ingrid Johnston, dean of special academic programs, has been a part of Castleton for three years, and says that it has helped to keep students.

            “Anecdotally speaking, people think it’s contributing to retention,” Johnston said, “Retention is something that we measure from first year to second year, so people have argued that it contributes to retaining those first year students,”.

            Johnston also said that the team is raising awareness among faculty and staff on what they can do to help students who may be struggling.

            One of those professors who has used the referral program for his own students is Dr. Greg Engel, a psychology professor on campus.

            “I think it’s fantastic,” Engel said, “Really, the kind of thing that all colleges and universities should strive for is identifying students who might need support, need help in some area, and doing all we can as an institution to ensure they get the help they need,”

            Engel, a new professor on campus this semester, said he was impressed by the fact that the university has taken something that is usually an informal process and made it a part of the experience here.

            Despite the team’s best efforts, there are some students that have not been open to their suggestions.

            “You accept that you won’t be able to reach every student relatively quickly,” Dahm said, “But I think there’s a real level of concern that we all feel individually. We do want students to succeed, and even more than that, we are concerned for their wellbeing. We definitely experience a pang when students do not accept our support,”.

            Johnston says that the university really is looking out for their students.

            “The key is that this is part of Castleton’s big heart. It’s a safety net. It’s not punitive, and we don’t want students to feel like there’s surveillance or anything like that,” Johnston said, “We’re trying to look out for everyone’s wellbeing and trying to reach out early while we can still make a difference. I think that’s an important message."

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