Ivy Tech Kokomo selected for national program to promote student success

KOKOMO, Ind.  – Kokomo native Tashona Jones has been named director of Student Success and Retention at Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo and will be directing the implementation of Scaling Up Community College Efforts for Student Success (SUCCESS), a new initiative developed by research organization MDRC with support from Arnold Ventures and Lumina Foundation aimed at boosting the graduation rates for traditionally underserved students.

Ivy Tech Kokomo is one of three Ivy Tech campuses and six other colleges spread across California, New Jersey, and Ohio that will participate in SUCCESS. The program aims to create financially sustainable programs that dramatically improve graduation rates and that can be brought to scale within institutions and throughout states to increase educational attainment across the United States. Ivy Tech Kokomo will receive a $120,000 grant to support the project.

As the director of the new Success and Retention office, Jones will be working with students throughout Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Service Area, which includes Cass, Fulton, Howard, Miami, and Tipton counties with campuses or instructional sites in Kokomo, Logansport, and Peru. Her mission is to help students connect with resources in the College and the communities it serves to address any barriers in the way of their educational success.

“I want to help students navigate their way in higher education,” said Jones, who comes into her new role from working for the last four years as a life coach at the Excel Center in Kokomo. “I have a passion for students who may be first-generation college students, ones who don’t have family members who understand the system. My goal is to ease that anxiety – through workshops, seminars, advising, and bringing similar students together so they know they aren’t the only ones going through this and can support each other.”

Jones is starting recruitment efforts to select the first group of 60 students this fall to participate in the SUCCESS program. Participants will be selected based on specific criteria and will have additional support, including working with a “success coach” twice a month.

Under the grant, SUCCESS programs are being built around elements developed over more than 15 years of postsecondary research conducted by MDRC and others. These program components include frequent proactive advising, financial incentives tied to participation, strategies focused on increasing academic momentum (like requiring full-time enrollment), and the use of real-time data to support student progress. States and institutions may focus on specific student populations, such as low-income students, under-represented minorities, or adults. By sharing the results and providing additional technical assistance, MDRC will support the expansion of SUCCESS within and beyond these initial states and colleges.

Jones, a 1997 graduate of Kokomo High School, has served for the last two years as an adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech Kokomo, where she teaches sociology. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2006, a master’s degree in Student Development Counseling and Administration from Indiana Wesleyan in 2013, and a Certified Business Professional credential from the International Business Training Association in 2016.

Her new job builds on a career helping students and their families succeed. As a life coach at the Excel Center from 2015 to 2019, she served high school students in a non-traditional setting. From 2013 to 2015, as family advocate/parent, family and community engagement manager at the Darrough Chapel Early Learning Center, she worked with preschool children, managing a caseload of 80 Headstart families. Earlier in her career she served as coordinator of campus diversity at Indiana University Kokomo and director of education at City of Refuge Church of God in Christ.

“We are excited to have someone with such experience and knowledge of our community to take the lead on this important project and on our service area’s efforts to help students stay in school and complete the credentials they are seeking,” said Theresa Murphy, vice chancellor for Student Success at Ivy Tech Kokomo. “By helping our students succeed in their academic pursuits, Ivy Tech will also support the State of Indiana’s goal of increasing the number of Hoosiers with the education and credentials needed to be successful in the 21st Century economy.

“Like the other schools participating in SUCCESS, we will be testing the idea that intentional coaching and financial incentives will positively impact retention and success,” she continued. “We hope to develop programs here in the Kokomo Service Area that can serve as models for other community colleges across the nation.”

For more information on this initiative at Ivy Tech Kokomo, contact Jones at tjones758@ivytech.edu or 765-252-5463.