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September 2019


From the Dean...

I hope your semester is going well! In partnership with IITS, CSUSM’s CougarBot, a virtual assistant for new first-year and transfer students, is busy answering students questions.  We are hopeful that the bot’s ability to answer students’ quick questions allows more time for faculty and staff to assist students with their more complex questions. With the goal of meeting students where they are and helping them navigate their academic challenges, this fall the Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUGS) is piloting a 1-unit course for second-year students on probation. Additionally, OUGS has partnered with Financial Aid to provide academic support for new Success and Spicer Scholars. 

With the goal of expanding research-informed academic support for CSUSM students, this month OUGS welcomed Ms. Maricruz Macz as the Director of Supplemental Instruction.  She will build upon a program that CSUSM launched thanks to our faculty colleagues in Biological Sciences over 10 ten years ago.  

Finally, I write with a gentle reminder about a powerful resource on campus. Student Affairs successfully launched the Cougar Care Network (CCN) in Fall 2015.  CCN is CSUSM’s innovative early support initiative that allows Faculty and Staff to refer students for additional information, resources, and support to ensure their personal and academic success.  The Cougar Care Network serves as a safety net to assist students who may be experiencing challenges in- or outside the classroom. Thank you for making great use of this tool; students are being served.  While many of you have made use of CCN this year, I also understand that some of our colleagues have hesitated wondering if they should use CCN.  They’ve wondered, for instance, if it is only for students in crises or emergencies.  CCN is a tool to help our campus support students.  If you think a student needs support, he or she likely does. Simply click here or read below for more information. 

Thank you for your role in helping students connect to the many campus resources to support them on their journeys to graduation! 

Cheers to an engaging semester. We hope you stop by the new Extended Learning Building to tour the new learning centers.  Students are loving the new space! 


Best wishes, 


Dawn M. Formo, Ph.D.  

Dean, Undergraduate Studies  

Division of Academic Affairs 


Check the Pulse Campaign 

The Dean of Students Office, in partnership with Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUGS), Personalized Academic Success Services (PASS), and Institutional Planning & Analysis, has also launched a CCN-focused campaign for faculty to "Check the Pulse" in some of our higher-enrollment first-year courses; GEL 101, GEW 101, and MATH 101.  Faculty members leading these courses have been asked to be diligent in referring students through CCN in order to address struggle before it ends up affecting student academic records.  The first reminder for these faculty members has just gone out and will recur at the end of weeks 6, 9, and 12. 


Chatbot Updates 

 With the semester in full swing, CougarBot—CSUSM’s virtual assistant—is continuing to support our incoming first-year and transfer students. Students have so far asked over six thousand questions and received responses from an expanding library. The questions the chatbot has been receiving cover all aspects of students’ social and academic lives.  

For instance, students have asked Cougarbot about classroom and other locations (bookstore, Financial Aid Office, Learning Centers, and many more), how to access their email accounts, how to access Cougar Courses, how to register for online classes, how to buy a parking permit, and more. Our students use CougarBot for answers to more mundane topics such as the location of microwaves, too. 

Students have also been asking CougarBot for ways to meet people on campus, and the bot has been providing helpful tips and advice, a promising sign of how our chatbot is helping students adjust to university life.  

 We want to thank our partners across campus for their support in ensuring that all the new responses added to CougarBot are accurate and appropriate. We will continue to keep the campus community informed on CougarBot’s development.  


Promoting Second Year Success: Growth-Mindset, Resiliency, and Student Success 

Informed by national models to support students on probation, the Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUGS ) is continuing to pilot a 1-unit academic recovery course, similar to the version which ran in Spring 2019 for first-year students; however, this time as UNIV 180-1, for second-year students on academic probation.  The course promotes holistic student success by focusing on the foundations of personal narrative, mindset and grit, personal responsibility, healthy coping skills, learning strategies, and intensive academic planning and support. Two sections of this course are being offered. We are optimistic that this course will support second-year students’ academic recovery. We look forward to learning through our course assessments how best to revise this course so that CSUSM’s second-year probation students can succeed.  If you have questions about the course, contact Ashley Gragido, . 


CLASS Support for Success and Spicer Scholars 

 We are pleased to share that CLASS will play an integral role in the success of Success and Spicer Scholarship Recipients! During the first week of the semester, the Academic Success Center hosted a welcome event for these two great groups of students with Financial Aid colleagues congratulating and sharing information about scholarship renewal requirements and highlighting opportunities within our learning centers.  

Success and Spicer scholarships support different populations, yet all will be required to make at least 5 visits to a single CLASS learning center each semester.  These visits are one of the requirements for scholarship renewal the following year. Together, this population consists of 55 students. Success Scholars are first-year students, some of whom are underserved; some received the scholarship based on merit; others are underserved merit scholars. Spicer scholars are second-year students who have financial need. We are incredibly excited to provide this support to our students! 


New Building- New Spaces 

With our recent move to the new Extended Learning Building, we’ve been bustling with student visits! Students are utilizing the space for studying, relaxing, socializing, and of course, attending classes  in our dedicated First-Year Programs classroom for GEL 101 sections this Fall.  We invite the campus community over to check out our new learning spaces for students! Please look forward to a campus Open House invite in the coming months.  




New Director of Supplemental Instruction 


It is with enthusiasm that the Office of Undergraduate Studies welcomes Maricruz Macz. She joins the Academic Success Center as the Supplemental Instruction (SI) Director. Ms. Macz, a first-generation college graduate, is passionate about supporting students.  She has experienced first-hand the power of Supplemental Instruction as a student SI lead and now as a staff member supporting SI at CSU Dominguez Hills in two different roles, first as Assistant SI Coordinator and most recently as the SI Coordinator.  Her rich contributions have helped to drastically increase student participation in SI from below 1,000 student engagements to thousands.  As part of these efforts, she helped reorganize SI as a single unit rather than one distributed between Student and Academic Affairs.  Even more, in the past year, she has helped CSUDH earn SI certification through the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC). She is recognized for her passionate support of students’ academic progress and her ability to think outside of the box to accomplish her goals.  She is excited about the opportunity to take to CSUSM what she has learned through her CSUDH experience transforming SI.