Director of Student Success Phil Andre helps students navigate challenges on their journeys in higher education.

There are few employees at Alma College who talk to as many people on a given day as Phil Andre.

As director of student success at Alma, Andre leads a team of three dedicated staff members who help students navigate challenges they face on their journeys in higher education.

In one instance, Andre might be speaking with a faculty member about a student dealing with academic troubles, and connecting that student with a tutor. In another, he might talk to a resident adviser, an athletics coach, a diversity and inclusion specialist … the list just goes on.

“Selfishly, it’s a little bit of fun, because I get to hear from people on campus every day who have different expertises, and the level of talent we have here at Alma is really incredible,” Andre said. “Beyond that, I think my schedule really illustrates what we try to do here at Alma, which is to teach the whole person.

“When you teach the whole person, you become more keenly aware of the challenges they face. When you help them overcome those challenges, it’s an exhilarating feeling.”

Student success and retention has become a major focus of colleges and universities across the nation in recent years, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. Andre estimates that he works with 5 percent of the total student body every month; on topics ranging from financing college to honing study skills to mental health.

“Being in this role has helped provide me with an appreciation for the diversity of our student population and the different issues they face every day,” Andre said. “It has also strengthened my belief in the power of higher education and specifically what we do here at Alma College.”

Andre first joined Alma as a staff athletic trainer, after attaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees in kinesiology. He graduated from Central Michigan University with a doctoral degree in educational leadership in 2019 and has worked in the Student Success Office since 2020.

“What I found during my time as an athletic trainer was that I really liked the relationships I built with students, even more than watching them perform the rehabilitations and get back out on the field,” Andre said. “I felt like I was able to have a broader impact on them that way.”

Andre has worked at Alma for 16 years and commutes to work daily from his home in Rockford, Mich., which is well over a 60-minute drive. He said the biggest reason for making such a heavy time commitment to Alma College is the commitment that his colleagues put into Alma students.

“It’s the people and the relationships,” Andre said. “Everyone is all-in and we live our mission. We want students to succeed and become the best versions of themselves, for themselves. I know a lot of small schools will say that, but we live it every day.”