Success Story: Coaching leads to better grades, winning academic records

January 22, 2018

NMC success coach Leeann Fountain and student Taylor ByersNMC success coach Leeann Fountain and student Taylor ByersWhen Taylor Byers returned to NMC last fall, four years after she last attended, she knew she had to be a different kind of student.

But she didn’t seek help from an academic adviser, or a tutor, or even an instructor. Instead, Byers beelined for a student success coach.

Success coaching is booming at NMC. Already this year, coaching visits to the Student Success Center are double the 2016-17 total. Rather than being subject matter experts in math or English or science, like instructors or tutors, coaches guide students to academic success by providing tools to improve study habits, time management and task prioritization.

“It’s going so much better,” said Byers, 22, who is studying visual communications. “It helps you stay accountable. They teach you how to organize your life.”

Not just on campus, either. Byers’ coach, Leeann Fountain, had her fill in a 24-hour time chart, breaking the entire day into half-hour increments. Something stood out right away.

“Taylor wasn’t going to bed,” Fountain recalls. Without a standing bedtime, she was tired and couldn’t focus on studying. She napped erratically, which threw her time management off further.

But Fountain didn’t tell Byers what her bedtime should be, or even to set one. Rather, after Byers filled out the whole, 24-hour chart, Fountain said, “I asked her, ‘what would you change first?’ “

It was Byers who decided that first thing was to establish a bedtime, picked 10 p.m., and now sticks to it. Between her four days of classes, her job as a manager at the Arby’s in Kalkaska, where she also lives, and her commute time, that now leaves her evenings to study, alert and focused.

Posing the question for Byers to answer herself is a fundamental concept of the empowerment coaching style that NMC employs.

NMC instructor Steve Rice“So many of us have experienced education as something that’s being shoved into us,” said Steve Rice, an accounting instructor at NMC and the author of an innovation grant that allowed a seven-member team to be trained in the style in 2015. The goal is to empower students to solve their own problems, as Byers did.

Even with this year’s jump, only a small fraction of students receive coaching — 280 so far this year.

“It’s very much in the germinal stage,” Rice said.

Ashley Darga, NMC’s coordinator for Student Success and one of the team trained back in 2015, wants to accelerate it. In addition to the face-to-face coaching that Byers received, her office is piloting required phone coaching in three online classes: Rice’s accounting, a math class, and a history class. While there are variables in the data, results so far are encouraging: Across all three classes, students who got coaching received failing grades 8 percent less often and passing grades (defined as a 2.0 or higher) almost 11 percent more. Withdrawal rates for coached students were 5 percent lower as well.

“It’s giving us a really preliminary look at is this worth pursuing, and so far we feel encouraged,” Darga said. “I’m maxing out my personnel budget for (coaches).”

Coaching also establishes the kind of personal relationship that research has found is critical for students to complete their degree.

“This is designed in that spirit, hooking a student up with a person so they are engaged on campus and feel committed to NMC,” Darga said.

“Without persistence we’re not using our time wisely,” Rice said.


KUDOS – (praise or respect that you get because of something you have done or achieved) defined by

Submit a Kudos here.

Kudos to Lisa Thomas, Paul Kolak, Leanne Baumeler, and Lisa Blackford: They played a key role in planning and executing the NMC Winter Conference professional development program on January 8. Their suggestions and insights helped make the day a success!

Kudos to Ryan Bernstein: Ryan lent his branding and design genius to the NMC Winter Conference this January. His vision for the day and his work on the visual details helped make the day more engaging and effective.

Financial Aid Fair

TRAVERSE CITY — NMC Enrollment Services will host a financial aid fair for prospective college students, parents, alumni, and current NMC students from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15 in the Osterlin Library, room 113.

There will be half-hour workshop sessions and time for students to meet individually with a financial aid representative. Participants are asked to sign up for sessions in advance online.

Counting the Cost of College – Comparing Schools
4 p.m. session
5:30 p.m. session

Types of Financial Aid
4:30 p.m. session
6 p.m. session

How to Find and Apply for Scholarships
5 p.m. session
6:30 p.m. session

Students may also sign up for one-on-one assistance to discuss completing the FAFSA by the March 1 Michigan deadline, applying for scholarships, completing financial aid requirements (for current NMC students), comparing award letters and student loan counseling. Links to sign up for both workshop sessions and individual assistance are also available at

Release date: January 23, 2018

For more information:

Jessie Elliott
Enrollment Services
Phone: (231) 995-1035


Northwestern Michigan College is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, height, weight, marital status or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions.