Tasha Gooden-Shakes, Stevenson’s director of student success, offers first-year students much more than just academic advising. Gooden-Shakes, who has helped build Stevenson’s student success program from the ground up, has had hands-on experience working with students.
The student success program at Stevenson University typically offers students a designated coach with whom they plan courses, as well as work through any issues that new students might be having.
“I love when students come to me with any sort of problem they might be having. If they have anything that could be holding them back from maximizing their potential, I want them to know that my office is a safe space for them,” said Gooden-Shakes.
Gooden-Shakes said she is aware of the importance of finding someone with whom students can connect at the start of their college life. When issues arise, talking to family members can be difficult. “Sometimes, someone in your immediate family can’t break through to you like someone else could. I want to be that person that students can come to for anything,” said Gooden-Shakes.
It is not always easy to talk clearly about issues when there are many different factors in each student’s life. Students could be excelling in the classroom but struggling with depression, or not doing well with their studies and need guidance in planning.
Gooden-Shakes goes beyond the borders of her job. Like her mother Hilma, Gooden-Shakes has a huge heart and has taken her job to the next level.
“My mom was my soul source of being, you know, my rock. She raised me and my four siblings on her own while going above and beyond in the hospital setting,” said Gooden-Shakes.
Her mother taught her the importance of connection and love. “Our family didn’t have much. But the way we interacted with each other, it never seemed like we were without,” explained Gooden-Shakes.
About a year and a half ago, the director sadly lost her mother and still finds it hard to go on without her. To honor her mother’s memory, she has recently done a soft launch for a non-profit organization in her honor called Hilma’s Heart.
“What I want with this organization is to bring together a community of people who want to offer service, in any way. If you have ideas, based on your experiences, you can help people in new ways,” said Gooden-Shakes.
Gooden-Shakes translates her mother’s lessons into meaningful conversations with a variety of students. She enjoys checking up on students whom she has known from years ago, frequently thinks about them and hopes they’re living life with no setbacks.
“One thing that comes with my job is care. And even though I haven’t seen some kids in a long time, I still think about them. I still hope they persevere in whatever route they’ve chosen,” said Gooden-Shakes.