Second year graduate student, Elaina Curtis, from the Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA) program presented a poster at the 2023 NASPA conference on April 2-5 at the Boston Convention Center. Her conference attendance was made possible in part by winning the competitive Jim Rhatigan Fellowship. Her presentation was on the Student Transition & Engagement Program (STEP), a cohort-based success coaching and mentoring program out of the office of Student Success and the First Year Experience at Salem State University.
NASPA was Curtis’ first national conference and because of the Rhatigan Fellowship her experience was significantly enhanced. “In addition to presenting my poster, I was able to attend pre-conference sessions and panels specifically focused on first-generation students. I wanted to be able to learn more and create connections to further my understanding of how to support these students, especially as I start a new full-time professional job soon.” Curtis was recognized as an award recipient during the conference award ceremony on April 4.
The Student Transition & Engagement Program (STEP) works with Pell Grant-eligible first-year students through success coaching and mentoring. The majority of those who participate in the program also identify as first in their family to attend college. Curtis’ poster details the programmatic aspects of STEP as well as highlighting its efficacy. When asked about her experience, she explained, “Presenting a poster at a conference like NASAP is something that is outside of my comfort zone, but I was able to enjoy it and had fun with fellow attendees asking questions and showing curiosity for what goes on at STEP at SSU.”
After graduation Curtis plans to work with Alray Scholars, a Boston based nonprofit that supports Boston Public High School graduates who stopped out of college and would like to return.