Retention Initiative for Student Excellence (RISE), Division of Institutional Diversity, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater
Julie Swaringim-Griffin is the coordinator of the Retention Initiative for Student Excellence Program (RISE) at Oklahoma State University, where she helps freshman adjust to the demands of college life. OSU student Gary Hall nominated her as an outstanding mentor because she has gone above and beyond to help him and other freshmen be successful and feel supported.
“Mrs. Julie is a wonderful mentor who encourages you to do your best at all times,” he said. “Her door is always open to talk about anything from academics to life in general.”
Hall recalls a time he was stressed about having two back-to-back tests in one day and Swaringim-Griffin helped him to calm down and focus, reassuring him that he would do well on both tests, and he did. When Swaringim-Griffin noticed a recurring problem with student hunger, she created a food pantry in the office where students could get food as needed, no questions asked. Hall also praised her for organizing fun activities, such as pre-game celebrations, and providing free pizza and snacks for student movie nights.
“Julie’s office is surrounded by thank you notes, not only because she is teaching the skill of writing thank you notes to new freshmen, but also because she is receiving them for all that she does for the students,” Hall added. “She meets with the students one-on-one each month and unofficially several times during the week. She always has an open-door policy and is never ‘too busy’ for college freshmen.”
Swaringim-Griffin, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees Human Development and Family Sciences from OSU, also teaches Inclusion Leadership and Diversity in the 21st Century America. The impact of her efforts can be measured by the many students who return to the university the next year because of her mentoring, Hall said.
About the Program: The Retention Initiative for Student Excellence (RISE) program within the Division of Institutional Diversity is designed to assist a select group of talented first-year students transition from high school to OSU. The program primarily focuses on addressing academic issues that might challenge students. RISE is attentive to the variety of social and financial challenges that students often face in college.