When Lara Vance goes into work each day at the Eastern Kentucky University Student Success Center, Vance is doing a myriad of tasks; which can include helping students with academic troubles, helping a student find temporary housing or sending out emails to campus leaders from different organizations.
Vance is a freshman seminar professor and is the director of the Student Success Center at the Crabbe Library.
“No two days are the same. Every day is different, and that suits me very well. I have no idea what will come at me. I have a planner and schedule, but what happens between those, I never know,” Vance said.
Vance earned her masters of arts from Marshall University. Although she did well in college, the experience came with some great learning moments that made an impact on the rest of her life.
“I almost lost my scholarship at Marshall because I didn’t realize I had to fill out a yearly FAFSA. It was a shock, but I was fortunate to fill it out and still get the scholarship money. I just want to help students avoid mistakes I made so they can make it easier or, if anything, so they can get more out of college and do not miss out,” she said.
With or without COVID-19, there have always been new challenges Vance faces in the Student Success Center.
Academic issues like bad grades lead the way in terms of why students venture for help by way of Vance, but other student issues of all kinds are always a tough challenge or problem for her to solve.
Vance has to balance this workload with her multiple other campus involvements such as being on the EKU staff council, being on the bookstore and dining advisory committee and helping lead the student emergency fund. She recently has helped a few students who needed financial assistance find ways to find residence in Richmond or on campus with money from this fund.
“For the emergency fund, it is helping students make emergency payments for rent, medical reasons and getting students to food pantries if they need it. Temporary housing and anything where some students may be struggling, that’s what the emergency fund is for. I am heavily involved in areas of this fund where I can help students figure out the issues they need solved,” Vance said.
Vance, who has struggled before in college, said she has always felt like she wanted to help others. This started back when she attended Marshall University, where she volunteered in the writing center and eventually went on to helping struggling high school students. Lots of these students would do well and move on to their respective universities but would eventually start to struggle being on their own.
Vance said when students struggle and make mistakes in college, it can follow them forever and impact their future careers. Students sometimes do not realize the resources they have on campus like the Student Success Center that are specially there for assistance and for students’ own benefit.
“The problem is a lot of students don’t recover from mistakes, so I want to be able to help the students be able to make it through college. There are so many resources on campus that students aren’t aware of, but we want to help students find those, including here,” she said.
Along with having a passion for helping others with any issue they bring to her, Vance also seeks to help students make it through college by working with them on their individual issues in and out of the classroom.
Being a first-generation college student made it tough for Vance to get through all the challenges on her own, but the FAFSA moment was a humbling experience for Vance that showed that looking for help transitioning to college life is okay and sometimes necessary for students.
“I just love seeing everybody accomplish their goals. If they are in college, they want a degree. I could have easily lost my full ride scholarship on one mistake, and I want to make sure no student who comes for help has a situation like that happen,” Vance said.
For students struggling at EKU, Vance said that her goal is to be able to help everyone get the resources and help they need when they come to the Student Success Center.
Always juggling a massive workload helping many students in her office, Vance understands how easy it is to be overwhelmed with daily routines or multiple classes.
In terms of a mission statement for the Student Success Center and her work, Vance makes it clear that she is there to help anyone.
“I would say my goal is to be a one-stop shop to get questions answered or resources needed for each student,” Vance said.