OLC Administration and Student Services Team: Katherine O’Connor

Please tell us about yourself and your background: You might say Webster is in my blood. I come from a long line of Webster Graduates, including my grandmother, father, and two aunts. I received by BA in Psychology in 1994 and my MA in Media Literacy in 2008, both from Webster. I have over 25 years of customer service, business, and media experience. For several years, I was a Crisis Counselor, working with adolescents with severe to profound educational, learning, and/or behavioral disorders in a private, not-for-profit school. I spent a decade working in the event planning/rental industry. It was during that time, I decided to pursue my master’s degree.

I began working at Webster in late 2009 as an adjunct professor for the School of Communications. After graduating and teaching for a couple of terms, I realized how much I loved higher education. I became a team appointment Academic Advisor for Webster in Fall 2011, working part-time with graduate students in the Walker School of Business. In the Spring of 2013, I left event planning to take a full time undergraduate academic advisor position with the School of Business at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. In 2014, a close friend and colleague convinced me that I needed to apply for the Online Student Retention Coordinator position at Webster. So I did, and here I am.

What do you do in your free time? I love traveling, reading, playing the violin, and the St. Louis Cardinals.

How long have you been with Webster? Off and on as a student and employee for a really, really long time.

How do you help Webster University Online current students? My current position has changed with the needs of our students. Not only am I the Retention Coordinator, but I am also a Student Success Coach. My job is to assist students as they are navigating their online courses and Webster. I help students make critical educational decisions by asking them to think about all sides of their situation so that they can make the best decision(s) for themselves. I also help students by connecting them to the appropriate person or resources when necessary.

As an Online Student Services Team member, you answer many questions from students. What are some of our students’ frequently asked questions? One of the most asked questions I receive is, “Should I drop/withdraw from my course?” I can’t actually answer that question. That is a personal question. So I will ask the student what is going on that is causing them to think about dropping or withdrawing from their course. We will talk about how their class(es) fit into their life. Are you able to dedicate 9-15 hours a week to studying, answering discussions, completing assignments, and/or writing papers? Do you have a designated area for studying? Do you have a support system that encourages you and allows you the time you need to do class work? What are the educational and financial repercussions of staying in the course, dropping, or withdrawing? There are a lot of things to think about when trying to answer the drop/withdraw question. I am here to help students figure those out.

What part of your job is the most satisfying? I absolutely cherish seeing students complete their goals. Whether it’s passing one crazy test or completing their degree, seeing or hearing about that completion is everything.

Do you have any advice for students — both current and prospective? Relax. Take a step back. Re-focus. You are not alone. There is always help available. Reach out to others. You can do this!

What’s your favorite part about being a Gorlok? Once a Gorlok, always a Gorlok. We are a family. We are here for one another. Always.