Few individuals are as dedicated to the success of first-year college students as Dr. Susan Jennings Lantz. If anyone knows and understands the obstacles first year students face, she does. Her background is in higher education, but it’s a non-traditional one compared to most faculty. That’s what sets her apart.
She started out with a plan to be a high school English teacher, but it didn’t pan out that way. After college she served WVU in a number of capacities. She was an academic advisor for five years, where she saw students grow developmentally, emotionally and academically from their freshman to senior year.
“I’m fascinated by college student development. You come in a child, you leave a grown up ready to make an impact in the world,” she said.
After that, she headed to then-WVU President David Hardesty’s office. She reported directly to him as an ombudsman for parents and students, relaying external concerns and comments to the correct person. In other words, a form of business communication.
WVU’s parent electronic newsletter? That was Dr. Lantz’s baby. Today, more than 25,000 parents receive e-mail updates about the new and upcoming events on campus thanks to this initiative she started. The WVU Frontline Professional meetings on campus? That was originally a project of hers, too. The Gold and Blue Ambassador program? The Mountain Mommas and Poppas WVU Parent Support Group? All of these were pet projects that Dr. Lantz claims personal responsibility for getting off the ground. Years later, though Lantz has moved on, they are all going strong!
She then became the associate director of Career Services within WVU Student Affairs, and later served as the assistant director of Student Employment under the Division of Human Resources. She also taught several versions of WVU’s First Year Seminar, an introductory course for freshmen.
“I knew students. I knew employment. I had done a lot of work with students and parents about how to get jobs. So I ended up going to HR, an area that never occurred to me that I’d go to,” she explained.
Although she didn’t know it at the time, all of this experience in a business setting, often centered on first-year students, was setting her up for her dream job.
“I wanted to get back to the classroom. It’s my passion,” Dr. Lantz said. “(Through my work) I realized it’s all about how you communicate the right information to the right people. It can save you time, money and aggravation. So I love taking information and presenting it in a way that makes sense to people so they can use it.”
Because of her unique background experience, Dr. Lantz was hired as a marketing teaching assistant professor in the fall of 2013. She teaches Introduction to Business and Building the Business Mindset for College, which combines her two loves: business communication and working with first year students. She helps students identify their strengths and learning styles, keeping them active in the classroom with her enthusiasm and use of mobile technology.
She’s also the Director of B&E’s Business Learning Resource Center, which serves to provide students with academic support.
“It’s all about critical thinking skills, students’ ability to write, study skills, getting students to be the best possible students and be as prepared for the job market as possible,” she explained. “While nobody exactly wants to study, you do have to put the time in, you have to develop grit in order to become proficient (at studying.) We feel it has significantly impacted our students in a positive way.”
Indeed, there has been a positive correlation between the required study hours and student GPA.
“I think the students are really pleased that somebody is there to help them if they need it, if they’re hitting a wall. There’s a designated place to go for help,” she said.
While Dr. Lantz may not be the one tutoring in the BLRC, she’s there to help, too. And for many students, that’s just what the doctor ordered.