Student Enrichment Services hires two new full-time staffers

Fathma Rahman, Development and Recruitment Editor

Student Enrichment Services has expanded to include two additional staff members as part of an effort to increase its reach across campus, SES director Kourtney Cockrell said.

Cockrell had been the only full-time employee at SES since the office, designed to support low-income and first-generation students, opened in October 2014. With newly-hired assistant director Sharitza Rivera and administrative assistant Christine Mendoza joining her, Cockrell said she is optimistic the office will be able to achieve more of its goals.

“With a full team, we’ll finally be able to move further with our mentor program as well as increase programming about financial wellness, career development and connecting students with faculty members,” Cockrell said.

Rivera will lead Compass, a mentorship program for about 20 students that helps them navigate Northwestern and its resources, Cockrell said.

Previously known as the SES Peer Mentor Program, Compass was piloted last year and uses a cohort model in which participating students come together each week and meet with their mentors one-on-one every other week.

Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, told The Daily in September the University believes the office is “essential” for students from low-income families.

“Sometimes there are challenges that they face, and we want to make sure that they have one place that they can go,” Telles-Irvin said. “This is one central location that they don’t have to explain themselves over and over again.”

Telles-Irvin added that University President Morton Schapiro is committed to increasing the number of Pell Grant-eligible students, which she said is at nearly 18 percent now.

Cockrell said her office has also been working for the past two years to create the SES Common Application, modeled after an undergraduate admissions method where all applications are located in one central location. The program will serve as a central application for students to apply for various funds and scholarships across campus.

“Currently, it’s a word-of-mouth process in terms of knowing what funds there are,” Cockrell said. “All of these applications exist as a paper-and-pencil process, and our goal is to increase transparency.”

In addition to publicizing fund availability, Cockrell said the SES Common App program will allow students to only need to tell their financial story one time.

“Currently, in every application, students have to re-explain why they need the funds and (why they are) worthy of receiving them,” Cockrell said. “This will allow students to only have to tell it one time when they apply via the Common App, and that financial narrative will be saved in the application so they don’t have to say it again time after time.”

SES is also working with the Northwestern Quest Scholars Network to improve its services. Cockrell said she hopes the office can continue to improve its relationships with the group so students can take advantage of both.

McCormick senior Steffany Bahamon, Quest’s president, said the group has been helping administrators better understand first generation and low-income students on campus through a student advocacy committee.

“We’ve been trying hard to make sure they have a lot of student feedback for their different projects,” Bahamon said. “Unfortunately, the topic is so large and buried that it’s been difficult to find a way to attack the problem head on.”

Bahamon said the group is providing input about different projects within SES, including how to streamline the SES Common App and how to make course materials more affordable.

“Overall, we have had successful conversations,” Bahamon said. “SES is working very hard to help Quest. As students, we are learning more about what (SES) can do and they hear our perspective, which has helped in brainstorming ways they can better help us out.”

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