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September 2019 Newsletter

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, 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 Check the Pulse Campaign with the goal of directing first-year students who maybe struggling to available support early in the semester.  OUGS is also 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 

Cougar Care Network & the Dean of Students Office

Since its inception, Cougar Care Network (CCN) has been CSUSM’s early support initiative. CCN is designed to assist with student success, retention, and persistence. Students are referred to CCN for academic, personal, financial, and other concerns. More specifically, referrals can be made for academic distress, change/disruptive behavior, lack of attendance, and significant life changes. In 2018-2019, there were over 1,500 students referred to CCN with faculty as the largest referral source.  This is the fifth year of CCN, and we have seen an increased need to support students experiencing mental health (primarily anxiety and depression) and basic needs (food and housing insecurity) issues.  

While the Dean of Students Office houses the Cougar Care Network program, students’ needs are addressed through a network of campus partners across all campus divisions (e.g., Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement). The network is a testament to the collaborative and caring nature of our faculty and staff. If you would like to learn more about CCN, please visit the CCN website or request a presentation for your department

Refer a student to Cougar Care Network

Thank You, 
Jason Schreiber & Jennie Ruiz 

Dean & Associate Dean of Students 
Student Affairs 

How Can You Help? 

This will come as no surprise to you. Research shows that student-faculty interaction can often help students' academic performance. Additionally, research also suggests that students can benefit from faculty showing interest in their academic progress (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). We thank you for being a positive influence to students in need. Below are a couple of scenarios and how you might intervene:

  1. Student attended class and has been absent for over a week.  Student hasn’t completed major assignments or missed multiple online posts.
  • Faculty are encouraged to email the student first; students are more likely to respond to an instructor than others.  Students appreciate the personal touch of your email.  
  • Submit a CCN Referral. 
  1. Student tells you they have been dealing with personal issues and indicates a level of distress.  Student might need some assistance with food or housing insecurity. 
  • Depending on the level of information, invite the student to come speak with you in-person.  
  • Submit a CCN Referral. 
  • Call UPD if you sense a threat of harm to self or others. 
  1. A student has stopped attending class and is considering withdrawing from one or more courses. 
  • Discuss issues with the student; perhaps a referral to a support program is an option (e.g. CLASSPASS, and SHCS
  • Refer the student to Academic Advisor or Special Program Counselor. 
  • Refer the student to speak with Financial Aid or Student Financial Services for any financial consequences.
  • Submit a CCN Referral 

Where should you refer a student? 

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.  

Check the Pulse Campaig

The Dean of Students Office, in partnership with our office, 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, including 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 negatively affects students’ 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.

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 Notice.  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 at

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 ASC 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 especially 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.