strengthening the student experience

strengthening the student experience

Moving Forward and Looking Back
JWU Focus 2011 Strengthening the Students Experience

Sept. 11 is a day of remembrance and reflection for many. In 2009, it prompted Samantha Simon ’07 to send a heartfelt e-mail to Meryl Precourt, an advisor at JWU’s Providence Campus Center for Academic Support; and Loretta Robin, student academic counselor in Student Academic & Financial Services. Both advised Simon throughout her undergraduate program, keeping in mind her specific learning challenges.

“After I graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management I worked at several different corporate hotels and realized that wasn’t what my calling was. I was meant to help other people,” she wrote. “Both of you were the reason why I graduated on time … In the last two years I have realized that I owe my diploma to the both of you. Now I am a poised, confident woman who knows who she is and what she wants in this world. I never told either of you how eternally grateful I am for neither one of you giving up on me. I want to make a difference in people’s lives just like you did with me. Even if it’s just one person, it only takes one for me to feel good in this world. So thank you both.”

Simon’s candor and maturity comes across on the phone. She didn’t enjoy her freshman year at JWU, “but I came back; I refused to be a statistic. I made friends and I wanted to do my internship.” Precourt and Robin were “always kind and considerate,” helping Simon “always see the prize.” Precourt was “like a second mother,” and “Loretta is a wonderful asset to the JWU family.”

Precourt has advised, mentored and coached JWU students for 14 years. “I’m part of a support system that can help a student have a better college experience and prepare them for a successful career,” she says. She recalls Simon as a “tentative freshman,” who grew in self-awareness and confidence. “Samantha learned that asking and receiving assistance was a means to success,” says Precourt. “All people, deep inside, want to succeed, [some] need professionals who understand their learning strengths and challenges, know what the person is going through, and have the skills to guide them to success. We all have things we’re not good at. That’s how we find our niche.”

Simon graduated in three years, served as president of JWU’s Travel Club and made lifelong friends. Her credo: “No matter how hard life gets, if I put my mind to something, I can achieve that goal.” Despite her hectic work schedule as a celebrity public relations coordinator for NBC’s “Today Show,” Simon volunteers, coaching adolescents in her spare time, and pursuing a master’s and Ph.D. in social work and mental health counseling.

“My parents are my biggest supporters,” Simon exclaims. “Meryl and Loretta, they’re part of the reason I want to make a difference in people’s lives just like they did with me.”

Precourt beams, “I’m so proud of her. I’m privileged and gratified to work with our students. I feel I’m making a difference, that’s why I went into this field.”