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Student Support Services assists, empowers students

Craig Winchell, assistant director of Student Support Services, or SSS, is a master at flipping pancakes right inside Allen Hall. Equipped with a spatula and chocolate chips, Winchell pulls out all the stops to get and keep students involved in the programs SSS offers.

Camille Harrington Quintana Students enjoy lunch and games in the Student Support Services office.
Eddy Perez/LSU University Relations

SSS is a comprehensive, federally funded trio program that offers assistance to a select number of undergraduate students at LSU. The program provides assistance at each stage of undergraduate education.

"We can work with students from orientation to graduation," Winchell said. "Even when they get into their senior college, we can still see them and advise them."

SSS provides intensive academic, personal and career counseling to help students reach their goals.   

"When students get to LSU, they really don't think they need the extra support that we offer," Winchell said. "But that first semester is an eye opener, so usually second semester or second year, we start seeing students."

After growing up in New Jersey, Winchell attended college in North Carolina before earning his master's degree in counseling at LSU.

"I knew I wanted to work with students," Winchell said. "And then the counseling position at SSS opened up."

Winchell joined SSS in 1993, and was one of just two advisors in the program. Now, there is a third advisor, putting one in charge of first-year students, one in charge of second-year students while Winchell works with third- and fourth-years.

Students are eligible for SSS if they have an ACT composite score of 24 or less, or is a first generation college student, among other qualifiers.

"These are regularly admitted students, some are valedictorians from high school," Winchell said. "It's just their parents haven't graduated from a four-year college. It's amazing how many students in Louisiana fit that."

In order to stay in SSS and receive all of the benefits, including priority scheduling, students must meet with their counselor on a regular basis, participate in SSS sponsored workshops and activities, take UC 0006: College Study Skills during their first semester and attend weekly tutoring sessions if needed.

This is why Winchell does all that he can to get students in his office.

"I have a conference table outside of my office I open up for studying or just hanging out," he said. "I make coffee every morning to get them in, usually one or two days a week I make brownies or cookies. I've done pancake breakfasts, once a month, make different pancakes for 2 hours, sometimes we'll do it as a fundraiser."

Camille Harrington Quintana Craig Winchell, assistant director of Student Support Services, goes above and beyond for the students in his program.
Eddy Perez/LSU University Relations

Students can also use the space as a lunchroom, where they often meet other students they can benefit from.

"There are times I'll have a first-year business student meet a third-year accounting major and they can talk about classes," he said. "They'll come do work there between classes instead of going back to their dorm rooms and they can see how other students stay up on their classwork."

Once students start meeting each other, Winchell said it helps to make LSU a smaller community and they end up staying at the university until graduation. SSS has a retention rate of 85, with 90 percent of their students in good standing.

"I think the first year at any college is tough," he said. "It just depends on how they get acclimatized to the campus. If they get stuck in a couple 1000-seat auditorium classes, they see it as a big campus, but I find once they find their niche, they get settled in, making it a smaller campus."

Winchell is also in charge of the tutoring program, which consists of about 30 student workers. The student workers choose subjects they want to tutor and can do so, provided they've earned an A or a B in the course. The tutors set their own schedules, making appointments with students at all hours of the day or night.

"I can see no negative part of being in our program," Winchell said. "There's no financial burden, it's just getting them in the program. I would love to see everyone that fits the requirements for our program to come by my office and apply."

For more information on SSS, or fill out an application, visit sss.lsu.edu/.

About LSU University College

Since 1933, LSU University College has served as the portal of entry for students enrolled at LSU. Academic and personal success is the hallmark of a well-rounded student, and University College provides a foundation of support services for students beginning their academic careers at LSU.

University College has two enrollment divisions: The Center for Freshman Year and The Center for Advising and Counseling. Additionally, University College offers retention-specific programs: Student Support Services, Ronald E. McNair Research Scholars and Summer Scholars. These academic support programs focus on particular student populations and are a significant part of the role and mission of University College.

For more information on LSU University College, visit www.uc.lsu.edu or follow the conversation at www.facebook.com/LSU.UniversityCollege.