Professional News

Transformative Learning Receives Innovative Academic Support Award for Groundbreaking Coaching Program

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 20, 2021) — Transformative Learning's (TL) Integrated Success Coaching (ISC) program was recently awarded the Commission for Academic Support in Higher Education (CASHE) Award for Innovative Academic Support Initiative by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). 

Each year, the Innovative Academic Support Initiative award is presented to an individual or group who has shown innovation in the development of new or redesigned programs, practices and collaborations to enhance academic support on an individual campus or within the larger field.

“My team and I are ecstatic to be honored and recognized by ACPA,” said Molly Reynolds, director of TL. “To be chosen amongst a competitive pool of applicants is quite the honor. Although the award provides an opportunity to share our programs nationally, TL is driven by our deep desire to put students first and to provide high quality programming to support students in their journey as Wildcats.”

TL at the University of Kentucky is the centralized academic support unit on campus, housed in the Office for Student Success. In 2016, TL transitioned an Academic Consultation program to align more with a coaching model, focusing on collaborating with students to set goals and improve essential academic skills including time management, exam preparation and study strategies. During this time, academic coaches recognized students were describing needs and goals outside of the academic realm of support and expertise.

Standing true to their mission of enhancing students' academic experience as early and as often as possible, the Academic Coaching program understood it was time to revise the model to more holistically support students’ needs.

During the summer of 2020, the Academic Coaching program evolved its model to create a holistic support structure for students — the ISC program. Now, in addition to providing academic support, coaches can help students across the six domains of academics, financial needs, health and wellness, career exploration, leadership development and identity-based support (e.g., first-gen, veterans, TRIO, ADHD/neurodiversity and more). 

Although academic coaching in higher education is not a new trend, an integrated model such as ISC at UK does not exist at any other institution. It is innovative in providing both direct coaching support to students through this integrated model, as well as providing coaching strategies to all personnel on campus who may work directly or indirectly with students.  

To further expand the campus coaching culture at the university, TL created an Integrated Success Coach Advocate (ISCA) training for all campus personnel. This three-hour training familiarizes campus personnel with the coaching program, the foundational tenets of Appreciative Advising (e.g., steps of disarming a student) and how to provide compassionate student referrals. To date, The ISCA training team has trained 213 staff on campus since September 2020.  

“UK is such a large, resource-rich institution but can be overwhelming for students,” Reynolds said. “ISC provides students with an opportunity to connect with one person across a host of student support dimensions. Our coaching program is individualized and driven by the students. This holistic approach creates connection, which allows for trust to be built.”

Although the program is only in its second year, 1,857 unique students have attended ISC for a total of 3,323 appointments. 

Under the direction of Reynolds and Julie Bradley, TL has evolved to best fit the needs of its students. For higher education, the last few years have been a whirlwind due to the global pandemic. Instead of expecting students to use practices that have worked in the past, TL rose to the occasion to truly meet students where they are. 

While growth for the office has been immense, Reynolds still has high hopes for the future. 

“My hope is for TL to continue to create and build innovative programs to support students throughout their time at UK,” Reynolds said. “I hope that each year our programs positively impact more and more students at this university and students who utilize any of our services see a team who cares deeply about their success and are here to support them.”

To learn more about TL and their offerings, click here

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.