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New Student Success Coach advocates for scholars

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April 13, 2017

Dr. Leah AggisonReBUILDetroit welcomes Leah Aggison, Ph.D. to the University of Detroit Mercy team as the Student Success Coach last month.

Aggison joins Kathleen Walker, Student Success Coordinator, as a mentor, advisor and supporter of ReBUILDetroit scholars at Detroit Mercy.

She comes at a time when more than half of the 85 consortium ReBUILDetroit scholars are students at Detroit Mercy.

Aggison, a Romulus, Michigan native, graduated from Romulus Middle and High School and attended Stillman College on a Bellingrath Fellowship for academically talented students.  She holds a Ph.D. in molecular cell biology from UMass Amherst and knows first-hand the challenges minority or socio-economically challenged students struggle with in academia.

With Aggison’s background in science, she strengthens the team by bridging the gap between student support services and academics.  She has first-hand experience with mentoring and intrusive advising.  Her graduate program provided similar support for minority students to overcome obstacles and see them succeed in graduate school.

“I didn’t seek enough help when I wasn’t getting the advising I needed during my undergraduate degree programs,” says Aggison.  “I was a double major in biology and mathematics.  No one advised me what I could do with my math degree.  So, I dropped it.”

“My plan was to go to medical school until I took anatomy during my last year,” says Aggison.  “The anatomy class made me realize that medical school wasn’t for me. Without the help of an advisor, I graduated without a plan.”

In the years between her undergraduate and graduate degree, Aggison discovered the love for teaching as an in-house tutor at Romulus Elementary School.  At the time, her colleagues encouraged her to obtain a teaching degree but Aggison wanted to teach at a higher level.

When an opportunity came into fruition for Aggison to attend graduate school via an internship, she took it without reservation even though her program had not been created nor did she have a place to live.

The program which she ultimately developed is similar to ReBUILDetroit but for graduate students.

“I realized the hurdles non-mainstream students have to overcome in college and graduate school,” says Aggison.  “I wanted to get in front of those hurdles.”

Being able to identify and help students overcome stereotypical social hurdles is very important for the success of minority or socio-economically challenged students.

Aggison is excited to bring her experience to ReBUILDetroit and compliments the support already in place and offers this advice:

“Take advantage of every opportunity this program offers,” says Aggison.  “I will be your advocate for getting you into graduate school, staying there and graduating with your Ph.D.”

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