From International Student to ISC Student Success Manager

Student Success building at JMU

YooJin Lee is the Student Success Manager at the James Madison University International Study Center (ISC). YooJin has been an ISC employee for four years and has a wealth of experience and knowledge about JMU, having attended the university herself as an international student. We asked YooJin to tell us more about her job and her experiences working at the ISC. Here are her answers.

What does a Student Success Manager do? How do you help international students adjust to life in the US?

As the JMU ISC Student Success Manager, one of my main tasks is to make sure students are succeeding inside and outside of their classes. If they are having difficulties in classes, we identify the issue and find solutions with available resources, professors, and ISC staff.

Other ISC staff members and I work together to help our students connect with the university and community through field trips and events. And many times, I am the student’s advocate and cheerleader, like creating a safe space for students to share and communicate their feelings, helping them through home sickness, celebrating their wins, and encouraging them to do their best.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job is seeing a student's growth throughout their semesters in the ISC. I love seeing how much more confident the students become with their English skills, the friendships they create in the ISC and at JMU, and the random conversations I have with students—about their dog or painting or cooking.

When a new student arrives at the ISC, what are your priorities for them?

As soon as the student arrives at the ISC, my priority is to make sure the student understands what the ISC program is (requirements, grades, expectations) and to create a relationship with him/her. I take part in our international orientation so I can get to know them, connect with them, and be a friendly face they will recognize. I try to meet with each student individually by the end of the first week of classes. In that meeting, I review ISC requirements, expectations, and answer any questions students have.

How often do you meet with students? What topics do you cover?

I used to meet with students four times throughout the semester. However, since COVID, I have switched to meeting/email communication every other week. One week I meet with every student through Zoom. We discuss how their week is going, anything fun they did during the week or weekend, how grades are (80% and above in all classes), any difficulties or issues they are having in class, ask for any other information I need at the time (major, housing for next year, health, vacation plans, etc.), and answer questions they have. The next week I send an email to check on them, how they are doing in class, ask if they have any questions, and follow up on any event or information they had shared the week before. For example, I may ask questions like How was the concert? Did you sign up for driving lessons? How did you celebrate Lunar New Year?

How does JMU support international students? What organizations, offices, and/or groups are in place to help our students know they are welcome here?

As a former international student at JMU, I have personally seen how much work, effort, and care the university gives to international students. International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) is like a second family to international students. Everything they do from orientation, events, field trips, and information sessions is completely dedicated to helping international students adjust to US life, be successful at JMU and in their careers, and to spread awareness of the different cultures represented at JMU.

The Multilingual Student Services (formerly known as English Language Learner Services) provides academic and English language skills support to international students and any other student who does not consider English their first language. University Career Center provides support with resume writing, mock-interviews, career fairs, connections with companies that are interested in hiring JMU students, and giving access to an online program to search for internships and jobs called Handshake.

At JMU, there are more than 400 clubs and student organizations available, from culture-specific student organizations to hobby-related clubs. Students get to see all of these clubs and student organizations during Student Org Night, which happens during the first week of classes every semester.

Can you give an example of a student who was struggling in some area and how you provided resources to help that student?

I had a student who had to repeat three ISC classes, which meant he had to stay an extra semester in our program. And because his overall GPA was low during his last semester, he had to work hard to get a 3.5 GPA to be able to reach the required cumulative GPA. He had weekly meetings with me in which we discussed his grades, what was affecting his grades (low homework grades, quiz grades, or other factors). I sent him to JMU’s Multilingual Student Services office to get tutoring, and he had 1-on-1 tutoring sessions with Professor Andi Beard specifically for reading skills. In this case, because the student was motivated to do his best and focused in utilizing all resources provided to him, he was very successful and was able to complete our program and continue to JMU!

What are some times when you saw students succeed in an activity or project that you led?

In Fall 2019, I created a resource called Study Hall. It is a two-hour period for students to stop by (no appointment needed) to get help with homework, papers, projects, or English language skills from ISC professors and tutors from the Multilingual Student Services office. Students really liked the ease of getting help, and it was another way to keep themselves accountable to completing the assignments.

Since you attended JMU as an international student yourself, do you have a favorite JMU tradition?

Eating a waffle with ice cream and fruit for brunch at E-hall on the weekend—something I used to do every Saturday with my friends when I was in undergrad.

Part of JMU’s spirit is represented in the phrase “being the change.” What does that mean to you?

“Being the change” means if I see something that doesn’t work for me, then I create a new way to do it, even if that means it will take longer.