Academic Support Professionals


Academic Support Professionals include all USU faculty and staff who provide developmental academic support to students outside of the classroom in individual, small group, and/or large group settings. Note: USU staff who primarily provide transactional support are not included in this definition.

One-on-One Meetings involve one professional meeting with one student.

Small Group Meetings include 2-5 students meeting with one or more professionals.

Large Group Meetings include 5+ students meeting with one or more professionals. The cap on the number of students is dictated by the delivery method (in-person vs. virtual) and the current USU and local restrictions.

Activities include only individuals internal to the specific USU campus. An activity would not invite individuals to leave one community and enter another community or region. It would not invite community members to the campus.

Events include individuals who are both internal and external to the specific USU campus. All events must be approved through the Event Committee.

Guiding Principles of Excellent Customer Service to Students

Strong Sense of Community and Support

Now, more than ever, students are seeking for a sense of belonging. Therefore, it is critical that Academic support professionals view every interaction as an opportunity to reassure students they are supported and valued members of the university’s learning community. Remote experiences require creative methods to connect in new ways. Innovation and collaboration are key.

Compelling Communication

All communication, verbal and written, should be focused on both enhancing the relationships among people and providing accurate information. Students have a genuine need to feel connected during this time of isolation. Academic support professionals are key to creating satisfying and inspiring human connection. Professionals must communicate confidence and optimism regarding the institution’s preparations and ability to deliver quality academic opportunities. Professionals must familiarize themselves with the many campus services so that referrals are reliable and appropriate.

Student Development Through Quality Moments

Consistent quality moments, as seen by students, define the role of academic support professionals. When motivated by true compassion and delivered through reliable knowledge, these moments create meaning, belonging, and security for our students.

Professionals report greater job satisfaction and pride when they accept and implement these guiding principles. Furthermore, these principles serve to strengthen students’ confidence, ability, and independence as they strive to become lifelong learners.

General Guidelines

Although some face-to-face experiences may be appropriate and safe during the stabilization phase, the majority of these interactions will occur remotely.

Best Practices for Building Relationships in Virtual Environments

Providing services using phone and video conferencing must be intentional in developing relationships with students. General statements that convey the desire to build relationships with students include:

  • “I am committed to understanding your needs.”
  • “I believe in your potential.”
  • “I want to support you.”

Best Practices for conducting a virtual (live stream) meeting

  • Communicate the process for making appointments and what to do if there are connection problems.
  • Remote spaces are most welcoming when they are clean and free of distractions.
  • Consider the background behind you and how it looks on camera.
  • Utilize screen sharing as appropriate.
  • Dress professionally; consider branding yourself and your surroundings as USU.
  • When video conferencing, set up the camera at eye level. Position yourself so that you can be seen from the shoulders to the head, or from the waist to the head. Anything closer may be overwhelming; anything further might make your face too hard to see.
  • Start the meeting by welcoming students to the session. Ensure they can see and hear you and that you can see and hear them.
  • Wear earbuds or headset to reduce the amount of background noise and increase the level of understanding you have with your student.
  • Advise students to mute their microphone if they are not speaking to minimize distracting background noise.
  • Follow basic principles such as turning off video stream if connection is slow or lagging.
  • Respect that you are entering your students’ home!
  • Check the chat space for student questions and contributions.
  • Utilize appropriate self-disclosure in making connections with students as they share their stories and lived experiences. Use this time to validate the stories they share and experiences they are having.

Best Practices for Conducting a Phone Meeting

During this period of disruption, phone appointments are probably the easiest way to communicate with students.

  • Before the appointment, verify that they have provided a phone number.
  • Be sure to communicate who will be calling whom.
  • Be aware of any time zone differences.
  • Recognize that the student may or may not have control over the external environment they are in at the time of the appointment. Communicate expectations that you would like for them to have access to a computer in a quiet space during the appointment, but be understanding if that is not possible.

Appreciative Mindset Principles

Each professional should work with their individual supervisor and department to determine where remote services should originate (e.g. the employee’s office, home, etc.). Individual student input and preferences should be taken into consideration when determining the mode of remote services (e.g. video conferencing, phone appointment, etc.)

The steps of this research-based process are outlined below:


Make a positive first impression with the student, build rapport, and create a safe, welcoming space.

  • Example questions:
    • What is something you have learned about yourself during this process?
    • What concerns you the most when it comes to your courses…or your job search or…..COVID….or the future?
    • What are some coping strategies that you are using at this time?
    • How did you feel about the transitions from in person classes to an online format or a blended format this spring?
    • What are some of your needs?


Utilize generative, open-ended questions to draw out what students enjoy doing, their strengths, and their passions. Your two primary objectives in getting to know the student’s sparks, strengths, struggles, and supports are to make the student feel understood and validated. Research shows that feeling understood and validated by another person are the strongest contributions. Listen to each answer carefully before asking the next positive question.

  • The value of the relationship is found in and within student stories and lived experiences.
  • Ground academic planning and support in the student’s academic strengths.
  • Example questions:
    • What course delivery methods are you participating in?
    • What has been your best experience with online or blended courses?
    • What are some of your expectations for online courses?
    • Tell me about how your experiences in-person class and your experiences in the online format have been similar/different?
    • How have you utilized your strengths in reaching your goals in the different formats?
    • Tell me about a time when you enjoyed doing class projects or assignments. How did you feel? What was it you enjoyed about it?
    • Tell me about a time when you experienced academic success. What about it made it feel like a success? What did you do to make it successful? Who helped you?
    • Tell me about a time when you felt you were organized and managed your time well. What kinds of things did you do that made you feel that way?
    • What activities were you involved with in high school?
    • What do you like to do in your spare time? (Books, movies, travel, hobbies, etc.)
    • If you have more time with an individual student:
      • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Tell me about them.
      • Describe some life events that have made you into the person you are today.
      • Who are the most important role models in your life? What characteristics do they have or what is it about them that makes you see them as role models? How do they help you make decisions about your future?


Help students formulate a vision of who they might become, and then assist them in developing their goals.

  • Make connections between information from the Discover phase and Dreams being shared during this phase.
  • Encourage students to be open to the possibilities and remind them that there is more than one right answer.
  • The purpose of the Dream phase is to let the individuals brainstorm possible goals without repercussions; the Dream phase puts no limits on capabilities.
  • Example questions:
    • If money were no object, what career or major would you chose?
    • What legacy do you want to leave behind?


Help students devise and co-create concrete, incremental, and achievable goals.

  • Discuss the options for making decisions.
  • Offer choices rather than mandating a single option.
  • Give feedback and encouragement.
  • Remember, the more familiar you are with something, the harder it is to put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s not familiar with that thing. Clearly explain acronyms or jargon.
  • Show, don’t just tell. Give concrete examples, rather than just explaining. Share your screen when using video conferencing.
  • Give the student the opportunity to envision and discuss the possible obstacles and challenges that will arise as they work toward their goals.


The students follow through on their plans. Ensure the students understand you are there for them when they stumble, believing in them every step of the way and helping them continue to update and refine their dreams as they go.

  • Challenge the student to proactively raise their internal bar of self-expectations.
  • Let students know that you expect them to keep up with the learning even though times are difficult; hold them accountable if they don’t put in the effort.
  • Example questions:
    • When will you follow-up with me on your progress?
    • How will you reach out to me if you stumble or encounter a barrier?

Don't Settle

Academic support professionals and students alike need to set their expectations high.

  • End sessions by telling students that you believe in them and you know they will get through this difficult time and continue learning and growing.
  • Conclude each meeting with a follow-up email outlining responsibilities and next steps.

When planning both small and large group meetings, it is important to determine if the meeting should be considered an “activity” or an “event” (see definitions above). All SOP for activities and events must be followed and events must be approved. Professionals are strongly encouraged to utilize virtual platforms to ensure the safety of participants as well as to reserve campus space for course delivery.

Face-to-Face Meetings (including 1:1, Small, and Large)

Although virtual meetings should be used the majority of the time, one-on-one meetings may occur only if USU policy and procedures are followed. It should be noted that wearing cloth face coverings and using plexiglass shield make it difficult to achieve the level of relationship needed for meaningful academic support. A virtual environment is more effective in most cases.

When meeting in-person, the following is recommended:

  1. Prop doors open so handle use isn’t necessary.
  2. Provide sanitizing stations at all entrances.
  3. Allow more time between meetings and stagger appointment times as much as possible.
  4. Eliminate “waiting rooms” i.e.: instruct students that they will receive a call to let them know when the space is ready and instruct them to wait outside the area until they receive that notification.
  5. Cloth face coverings should be worn.
  6. Social distancing of at least 6 feet must be maintained.
  7. Utilize appropriate signage to communicate procedures for all group meetings.
Trainings for Academic Support Professionals

The student achievement collaborative creates and distributes training for all stakeholders, and information about the training is sent through a monthly newsletter.