Planet with rings and stars
Ascent Blog

Conversations on Coaching with Felicia Wetzel, Ascent’s Student Success Coach

Jul 26, 2022 | By: Breanna Knight
Categories: Blog, For Students, For College Students, For High School Students

Felicia Wetzel is a part of the Ascent team, driving students to become their best selves through her expertise as a guide in academic and career success.

While finding her place in the world, Felicia had her own valued mentors who followed her path of study changes as a student from nursing to adult education and eventually coaching. Today, Felicia takes the time to answer some vital questions about the importance of student support, and how best to find it. 

When did you know you wanted to be a success coach? 

I discovered the coaching role through my job search as I prepared to graduate from grad school. Given my love for adult education, I started my search with roles in higher education. I found the role, and it seemed too good to be true! The thought of supporting students to learn how to navigate college captivated me. I’ve earned 11 years of experience now in supporting students and that’s what makes doing this work so fulfilling.

What’s the best part of your job as a mentor here at Ascent?

Connecting with students and learning about their individual stories are the best part of my job! When a student has an “Aha!” moment, it tells me that we’re doing something right and reminds me of the importance of our work. Whether it’s providing students with a particular resource, helping them understand more about how they operate best or instilling confidence or motivation where it’s lacking–that’s what makes my job so enjoyable. 

Each person is unique and complex in their own way, so facilitating an interaction where they’re able to come to a new realization of what they need or even just feeling heard and supported is an incredible experience and I find tremendous joy in those moments.

Did you have any notable mentors in your career/life?

Yes! My pastors and friends, Mike and Kevin. I initially began my undergraduate studies pursuing nursing, but I did a complete 180. Given my commitment to ministry, I needed to understand people, where we come from, and how we think. So, with wise encouragement, I chose to study philosophy and history. As I’ve navigated my educational and professional journey, Mike and Kevin have been there every step of the way to provide me the perspective I needed to process what I was learning and how it related to my future. They instilled in me a true value for education. I feel incredibly blessed to have mentors like them. Without them, I would have felt lost and unsure which direction to move in.

How valuable is career coaching or mentorship right now for students?

It’s huge! Some aspects of the student experience might seem apparent to some, but a lot of individuals just don’t have this kind of support or guidance. Having support can be the difference between feeling like you’re just getting by or even potentially failing, and true growth and development in the critical knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to achieve your goals. Preparing to move into the job market after graduation can be one of the most overwhelming and daunting tasks for any graduate, but with the support and perspective of a coach/mentor, approaching those next steps to start your career can be much more manageable. 

Why should students care about getting a success coach or mentor?

From all ages and at all times, those who lack experience have always needed those who preceded them to provide skills, wisdom, and perspective about life. Whenever anyone ventures into unknown territory, the support of someone who has chartered that territory before is invaluable and makes the journey easier, even life-saving. A lot of students do not have individuals in their lives that can provide the proper perspective for how to navigate the college experience, whether it’s study strategies, learning how to manage their time, budgeting their finances, understanding how financial aid works, etc. 

Consider this analogy. If you were going on a vacation to somewhere you haven’t been before, you would need a map, right? You can plan out your trip, but if you want to have the most enjoyable and richest experience, then you would seek out a guide – whether that’s recommendations from others who have visited before or a special tour guide designated for the task. To maximize your experience on the trip, having a guide allows you to avoid any time wasted and keeps you from unnecessary wandering. That’s what a success coach does. 

Your coach is your guide. They’re there to support you in navigating your journey through college, to maximize your experience, and ensure that you’re able to gain familiarity with all that’s needed to be successful in your venture.

Is there a difference between mentors and teachers?

Absolutely. Teachers are there to impart knowledge and skills. Every so often, you have some really special teachers that go above and beyond. As a mentor, the relationship with the individual is much more personal and requires significant investment because the mentor’s responsibility is to equip the mentee with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and character qualities that are necessary to thrive in a similar path of life. 

Coaching, however, differs from mentorship. As coaches, we might not have the opportunity to forge that kind of close-knit relationship that mentors can with their mentees. With our students, we seek to provide guidance to maximize their potential to be successful, however that may look for them. As coaches, we seek to be a thought-partner. We aim to help our students leverage their strengths, acquire new skills and anticipate challenges to overcome so that they can more quickly and easily reach their goals.

What would you tell someone who is having trouble finding the right mentor?

If they don’t have anyone within their network, I would encourage them to start building connections and relationships with those in their educational network and within their program department. 

Connect with other students – perhaps they have a mentor you could build a relationship with. 

Connect with the TAs of your courses – they’ve been given the responsibility to evaluate your coursework and may have other connections, and oftentimes, they’re older than you and have already gone through the experiences you will go through. 

Connect with your professors – this is probably the most valuable relationship you could develop. Professors are in their line of work to stimulate and build up students that have the same interests and they know people! Go to their office hours (however scary that may seem) and express your desire to learn from them. Ask your questions! Be curious! They love it! I did the same with several of my professors and it’s been so helpful to learn from them as I’ve navigated my professional career.