UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State seniors striving to overcome obstacles on the path to graduation have a new ally in their corner. The Student Success Center, which administers the Complete Penn State program, recently welcomed Penn State doctoral student Lee Juarez as its new student success coach. Juarez will support students seeking assistance from Complete Penn State, which helps seniors across all Penn State campuses to surmount challenges and complete their degrees.
“We are thrilled to welcome Lee to the Student Success Center,” said Denise Poole, director of Student Success Initiatives. “Lee is aware of the challenges that students from diverse backgrounds may face while attending college and simultaneously carrying familial and life responsibilities. Her academic background, combined with her personal experience as a first-generation college student, makes her a tremendous asset to our team.”
In her new role Juarez expects to collaborate with partner offices including the Sokolov-Miller Family Financial and Life Skills Center, Student Care and Advocacy, and learning centers across the Penn State system in order to develop efficient and holistic success plans for seniors. The Complete Penn State program, which is part of Achieve Penn State and under the umbrella of the Open Doors program, helps students who are within one or two semesters of graduation to overcome a range of financial, academic and personal obstacles, and the support Juarez provides will address all of these facets.
“Students are now facing a multitude of challenges which can create stress and negative impacts throughout their educational experience,” she said. “As my research interests include students’ basic needs and sense of belonging, I was attracted to this position as it connects with these topics while supporting students in a holistic way.”
Juarez, who holds dual master’s degrees in higher education and comparative international education from Penn State, is currently in her fourth year of Penn State’s Higher Education doctoral program. While pursuing her doctoral degree, she has made contributions to several student support offices, including Adult Learner Programs and Services, the Morgan Academic Center, Academic Development Services (Penn State World Campus) and the Multicultural Resource Center. She has worked with a multitude of student populations, including adult learners, first-generation students, student-athletes, veterans, transfer and change-of-campus students and online learners.
Juarez, a first-generation transfer student who identifies as a biracial (South Korean and Mexican/Chicana) woman of color, said that her passion to support students derives from her own experience receiving support from family and mentors.
“When you’re a first-generation student, you have to find a support team who can help explain the inner workings of college because no one in your family has ever gone through the process,” she said. “If it were not for my mentors throughout college, I don’t think I would have known about graduate school or considered applying to Penn State. Knowing that I can possibly make a difference in a student’s life fuels my passion and drive to support our students.”
Juarez, who is originally from Stockton, California, attended the San Joaquin Delta Community College and graduated with an associate degree in psychology and a certificate in American Sign Language. She then received a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science with a minor in psychology from the University of California, Merced. While attending UC Merced, Juarez worked as a student mentor at the Calvin E. Bright Success Center supporting first-generation, transfer and returning students, a role which she credits for initially sparking her passion for higher education and student affairs.
Juarez joins the Student Success Center, which was launched in 2019 to assist Penn State students in their academic pursuits, allowing them to fully harness the power of financial support and academic engagement opportunities. The center is committed to empowering students and their advocates across the University Park and Commonwealth Campuses to help students fulfill their academic goals.
The signature initiative of the center, Complete Penn State, has approved nearly $1 million in aid during the 2019-20 fiscal year. In the months ahead, the center will continue to expand its programming to further its mission of supporting students through their Penn State careers. The Student Success Center is a part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at undergrad.psu.edu.