College is the perfect opportunity for students to embrace their independence. For many, it may be the first time to live on their own. Others may find themselves juggling family, work and classes. The college experience can be a roller coaster of emotions; however, students should know that they are not alone in their journey, with support services available from personal counseling to writing an academic paper.

Lean on Me

A light blue house unassumingly sits on the corner of 11th Street and Fourth Avenue South. It is home to Mississippi University for Women’s Counseling Center, which offers a wide range of services to students enrolled at The W.

The W’s staff includes two licensed professional counselors and an intern counselor, who collectively share about 30 years of experience.

In addition to being a licensed professional counselor, Rob’Dreka Shaw is a national certified counselor. She earned both her master of science in clinical mental health counseling and bachelor of science in psychology from Mississippi State University. She also has a master of arts in education with a focus on family and community services.

Dr. Deb Wells earned her doctorate in supervision and counselor education and her master of science in community counseling from MSU. Her knowledge of social work and religious education comes from her undergraduate degree from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.

Molly Rafaely is the clinical mental health intern counselor who is in her second year of her master’s degree program in clinical mental health at MSU. Rafaely also obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology from MSU.

From anxiety to loneliness to maintaining family relationships, the staff has worked with issues common to students.

“A lot of times, they just need someone to talk with,” said Shaw. “They are just checking in,” Wells added.

Counseling services also includes group and couples counseling. Non-student spouses or partners of students may be seen in the context of couples counseling with their partner. If there are indicators of a need for individual counseling with the non-student, he/she will be referred to an appropriate outside agency.

While the center will be open in the summer, the staff is also using this time to plan. The counseling team plans to provide extended hours after the semester gets under way in the fall. They also hope to do more outreach, particularly with the various student organizations.

Shaw said, “We want them to know that we are here,” adding that coming to the center does not equate to having a problem. “You have to take care of your mental psyche.”

Wells added, “Our services are free and confidential.”

To schedule an appointment, students just need to stop by the center or call (662) 329-7748.

Here to Help

Box and McDavis

Jenny Box and Claudia McDavis

Centrally located on campus, the Student Success Center is available to help students achieve academic excellence. At the center, students can receive advice, feedback and strategies in various academic areas to help them succeed. Learning skills courses and seminars, career planning, developmental instruction and peer tutoring are just some of the offerings.

“We want them to use us and we want them to get help early,” said, Dr. David Brooking, Student Success Center director, explaining that students usually start showing up in the center around mid-term. “If you know you are struggling in a class, come in and get your tutoring.”

Brooking said the Student Success Center is still piloting the BLUE Scholars program, which focuses on building leadership, understanding and excellence. BLUE Scholars is a research-based learning community for incoming freshmen.

Student Success specialist Jenny Box said, “As part of the program, scholars share a block schedule that includes core college courses as well as robust academic supports such as supplemental instruction, tutoring, writing, a math lab and success seminars.”

Believed to be the only program of its kind in the state, Box presented BLUE Scholars received national visibility when Box presented at the National Association for Development Education’s national conference in Oklahoma City, Okla., in March.

Rosamund (Claudia) McDavis added that during the 2015 fall semester, the Student Success Center began the Supplemental Instruction (SI) program, which focused on assisting students in courses with the highest DFW (D, fail or withdraw) rate. Students who have taken one of the assigned SI courses and made an A or B sit in the class and hold two one-hour sessions with the students each week and are available to assist them during an office hour. Students who participate in SI and attend at least four or more sessions are typically the most successful. The DFW rates for fall 2016 for SI were 8 percent lower than non-SI participants. During the fall 2017, SI will be offered in 11 classes.

The Student Success Center brings together under one umbrella a variety of services that work to ensure the success of all W students. The staff includes the director, a student success specialist, student support specialist, retention specialist and career specialist. Another area of support is the navigators for each college. The navigators work closely with each college and the Student Success Center.


Navigator Amy Stockton

Amy Stockton, navigator for the College of Nursing and Speech-Language Pathology, counsels student Kyia King

Brooking added that the navigators also serve as academic advisers for incoming freshmen. They work closely with these students during their first year at The W. Navigators follow a proactive advising model that incorporates intervention strategies and mandated advising meetings during the first year.

“This way we make sure that the students and navigators are getting face time during the first semester, which is particularly important to student success, and the first year overall,” Brooking said. “Outside of first-year advising, the navigators also respond to Early Alerts filed on any students in their respective colleges to keep students academically on track.

The navigators also team teach sections of the Academic Support Lab course that is required for students who are placed into two or more intermediate classes. This gives them an additional contact with many of their advisees who are in need of additional academic support. Students begin working with faculty advisors during their second year.

All services are free to W students. For more information about services offered, please call (662) 329-7138 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Write On

The university’s Writing Center is focused on making students better writers, not necessarily making better papers. Generally, the center assists about 200-250 students each semester and approximately 30 in the summer.

“Obviously, most of those students physically come to the Writing Center for help, and to be honest, it might be old fashioned and even with all of the new technology that we have, I still find that the best way, said Todd Bunnell, instructor of English.

“It allows for actual interchange of thoughts. If a tutee is not sure about something that a tutor suggests, the tutor can then alter the approach. That one-on-one exchange allows for better understanding. However, with that said, I know that many students cannot come to the Writing Center for various purposes.”

Bunnell said he has seen an uptick in the numbers of students who have been using the online system. He added that many of the nurses in Tupelo submit online.

“This semester I have also noted a lot of dual enrollment students from Columbus High and New Hope who cannot come to campus because they are in school all day, and they have been submitting online a lot lately.

“While the online submissions are fine, I do want students to realize that we can also help them on a real-time basis. We do have the capacity to Skype with students. A student can submit a paper ahead of a pre-arranged Skype appointment, and then the student and the tutor can discuss, in real-time, the paper,” he said.

Bunnell explained that Skype allows for a better exchange than just the one-way communication that a simple online submission will bring.

“I have also been trying to push our chat feature. Sometimes a student has a simple question, perhaps something grammatical, and might not need to come to the writing center or make an online submission. That student can simply use the chat feature on our Google Doc site,” he said.

The Writing Center is located in 106 Painter Hall and can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Other areas of support where students may need assistance include residential programing, health services and ITS. The W offers a wide range of programs and services to meet the needs of today’s student.