Navigation Team

Alvernia receives Title III grant to expand programming 

When Adrian Bohinski started as a first-year criminal justice major at Alvernia University in the fall of 2021, he was self-aware of his habits, learning style and original desire to pursue avenues other than higher education. 


The rising sophomore’s focus on other career paths resulted in a lack of initial motivation when starting his first classes. It ultimately led him to seek services from Alvernia’s Navigation Office, established in 2019 thanks to funding from a five-year, $2.5 million, U.S. Department of Education’s Title III Part A Strengthening Institutions Grant. The office is led by Activity Director Lee Ann Bieber, who has helped Alvernia students reach academic success for nearly two decades.


“Through pre-arrival check-ins, we strive to figure out many student goals and needs before they arrive on campus,” says Bieber. “While students can be ‘college-ready,’ we want to be institutionally ready for the student to ensure that their experience is the best it can be.”


This preparation has been especially critical as students are not only making an impactful transition, but also have less confidence in choosing a career path and are less equipped to manage college life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the navigators adopted a case management model and created a financial, academic, career and social support program which allows them to meet one-on-one with all incoming first-year students to find any barriers to success before they begin classes.


“Our job is to get students on track,” says Lead Navigator Tyler Kearney-Good. “A huge part of it is sitting down, asking questions and reflecting on who they are as individuals so we can create an academic plan based on their needs. The goal of the conversation is to find a healthy medium between supporting and challenging so that students can build autonomy and better habits that they can carry well after their time at Alvernia.” 


Other examples of barriers to success that the Navigation Office caters to are those who need to weave a job into their course schedule, students who have obligations to their families or communities, students who need financial literacy assistance, those who need help deciding on a career path and, in the most severe cases, those approaching academic probation. 


“After using the Navigation Office services for one year, I’ve learned skills to help me get through life effectively and efficiently, not just to get through school. [The navigators] have taught me how to create a schedule, stay on top of it and edit papers and speeches. They cater to the type of person that you are, and it was those adjustments that impacted me the most,” says Bohinski. 


The Title III grant awarded to the university has helped increase student achievement, persistence and retention by expanding programming and support services has led to early success. It has assisted efforts in promoting university-wide collaboration with services offered in the Academic Success Center, Student Financial Services, Career Development and Student Activities and has resulted in a 2 percent increase in retention among first-year students.

Read the full feature from the August issue of Berks County Living Magazine.