The Life-Changing Work of Ginger Young

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John W. Dysart
The Dysart Group

Enrollment Management is an important division at any college or university. It is important because it addresses the very issues that define our purpose in higher education. We are, in fact, many things and seek to resolve many problems and accomplish myriad goals. But in essence, higher education is about teaching students, retaining students and graduating students with the skills necessary to become successful citizens.

Retention and graduation rates may be the most difficult challenges faced by the majority of colleges and universities in this country. For much of the higher education market, it is a continuous struggle working with students to just lead them successfully through the first year of enrollment. It is even more difficult to support at-risk students through to graduation. The work of the individuals intimately involved in this process for these colleges and universities is critical, life-changing and vital.

All of this is stated to put into perspective the extraordinary work of one individual at one small, private college. Ginger Young was the Director of Academic Advising at Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee. She died on September 15, 2016. Her death was a personal loss for me, but a much greater loss for her colleagues and the many students she served so well.

I had the pleasure of working with Ginger for a couple of years. While I have consulted with more than 170 colleges and universities, I have never worked with a more talented retention officer. That is not a statement I make lightly. Ginger was in charge of academic advising at the University, but she was so much more. She was extraordinary.

Ginger helped all of her students set academic, career and spiritual goals as part of her advising sessions. She revisited the goals with each student during her advising meetings. She helped her students select appropriate majors. She encouraged participation in co-curricular offerings and suggested specific activities for students. She monitored academic progress for her students and intervened with coaching, academic support and general encouragement when needed. She collaborated with faculty and administrators to improve enrollment outcomes. She was the greatest advocate for student success I have ever encountered.

Ginger was able to effectively coordinate resources across campus to help students. She knew all the players at Freed-Hardeman University and insisted that she and her staff attend campus events and meet with all of the constituent groups because developing such relationships was critical when the time came for proactive intervention. I witnessed her approach one day while I was meeting on campus. Ginger learned that a student was considering dropping out due to an abusive situation at home.

  • Within hours Ginger had met with the Director of Financial Aid who used her professional judgement to declare the student independent. The financial aid package was redone on the spot.
  • She coordinated with Student Services to offer the student housing on campus.
  • She met with a faculty member who offered to allow the student to live with her over the summer.
  • She identified counseling opportunities for the student.

This is just one example; such actions were common for Ginger. Her work with students was more mission than job. Ginger loved her students and worked tirelessly to help because it was the right thing to do. There are literally thousands of students who benefited from her passion, guidance, friendship, and mentoring.

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