Q&A with Learning Resource Coordinator Lizzy Harford
Sometimes the most important thing a student needs to achieve success is a strong support system. As the Learning Resource Coordinator at SJVC’s Santa Maria campus, Elisabeth (Lizzy) Harford makes certain that students who need help, get help.
If a student is overwhelmed, struggling or at-risk of going under, they just need to reach out. They won’t sink. Not on Lizzy’s watch.
What is your role on the Santa Maria campus?
I run the Learning Resource Center where I help connect students to education and academic resources, such as the online library and research databases. I also work directly with students on assignments that require getting content for essay writing and classroom presentations. I often coach students on time management and study skills. I help with a lot of resume and cover letter writing, as well. The Learning Resource Center is also a quiet place for students to access computers and printers and use study tables where they can work in a peaceful environment.
What are your goals of student support?
Ultimately, I want to instill confidence in students in their schooling and help them to gain critical thinking skills to better prepare them for their careers.
I am passionate about connecting with students. I had instructors who invested in me, propelled me forward. To feel like you have a champion to inspire and motivate you – and help you evaluate yourself – is something I want to provide.
Are you a soft place to land for students who flounder a bit?
I’ve had a meandering journey as a free-lance writer, so I understand students’ uncertainties. We work together, talk things out; and there’s a great sense of connection. Sometimes students just come in to use the equipment and do independent work. Sometimes they need a lot of technical help or assistance with navigating an online course. I love working with students and helping them unlock their potential in school and in their academics.
What is the best thing about your position?
The sense of accomplishment I get connecting with students and seeing that lightbulb moment. I’m just asking questions and trying to pull what I already know is in them out of them. When the wheels start turning and they finally realize that they’ve ‘had it in them’ all along…it is so rewarding.
Just being a resource and having students trust me with their struggles and with their wins motivates me. Graduates who reach out to me asking for a letter of recommendation or to shout, ‘I got a job!’ The relationships I build with students. That’s my inspiration.
What do you look forward to in your position?
The thing I most look forward to is to have a student who never used me before, come into my office and say, “I need help”. Some students think they must do everything on their own and if they just work hard enough, that should be enough. What we strive for at SJVC is to be a community – a community that serves each other.
We, as a society, think that asking for help or needing help is a weakness; but I think that asking for help is empowering.
How do students hear about the support the Learning Resource Center provides?
Students are told from day one who I am and how I can help them. I help run new student orientation, so I have the opportunity to show new students what I can help them with and what resources they have access to. I often hear ‘I should have come to you sooner’, so I want the LRC resources fresh on their minds as they begin their programs.
My favorite part of my job is when I go into the classrooms every 5-weeks when instructors schedule presentations and workshops. I get to work with the class on skills that I can help them sharpen and continue to encourage them to use these resources. I’m a teacher at heart, so every time I teach, I’m overjoyed….and I get to plug the LRC.
What are the barriers between students and the tremendous support the Learning Resource Center provides?
School is demanding and students are in class a long time. Many have families and jobs; and there’s a rushing out to live their lives. Time is such a huge obstacle for me to get students to see the value of this space and support.
I continue to grow awareness of the Learning Resource Center, along with the number of students who use us. I work with 3-10 students on any given day. Students see it as a place to take their struggle, then to learn and win.
What importance do you – and SJVC – place on student support?
I have a saying by Dr. James Comer: “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship”. The biggest relationship is our relationship with one another. Students, staff, faculty – even relationships with ourselves, as a people; worthy of learning and growing, worthy of love and support.
Admissions Advisors always bring prospective students in to introduce me and to see what they have access to and what I can connect them with. We are a team of support.
How do you measure success?
There are so many stories of students and their triumphs. But, rather than one triumphant experience of an individual moment of success, it’s more the small, everyday wins. Those culminate into this steady pulse of accomplishment and satisfaction for me.
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