‘They can be completely honest with me’: Augusta University staff member influences students’ mindsets by walking in their shoes

Rebecca Berger, director of Testing and Disability Services in the Division of Enrollment and Student Affairs at Augusta University, has a tough message for students: No one is 100% going to help you. You’re the only one who’s 100% going to help yourself.

Rebecca Berger

It’s a mantra not taken from a textbook but from experiences she’s lived. The “develop your academic mindset” principle in Augusta University’s “4 to Finish” model hits close to home, Berger said, because it was unattainable for many years.

“In high school, I had a learning disability but didn’t find out until I was 20. I was scared to talk to anyone,” she said. “I was failing in school. I felt like everybody else was a member of this club that told you what to do and how to do it, but I couldn’t figure out the name of the club. I was lost.”

4 to Finish: Mindset

Berger said once she was tested, diagnosed and treated, she changed her way of thinking and became an A student. Developing one’s academic mindset, a key area in “4 to Finish,” states success in the classroom depends on students believing they can do the work and that positive self-talk and a positive outlook on their academic career make all the difference.

She and her team model this belief for about 475 students per year through their department’s work.

Rebecca Berger talks to a new student and his mother about her department’s services during summer orientation.

“All the things students are telling themselves, I told myself. So, when they come to me and are struggling, they can be completely honest with me, and I help them figure out a way to incorporate an academic mindset into their life,” Berger said.

Berger’s methodology involves her team tailoring resources and offering opportunities to help her students develop a growth mindset that will lay the foundation for their success. The department’s mission is to ensure all qualified students with disabilities receive equal access to educational opportunities. The office also serves as a physical location for standardized testing.

The testing lab in Galloway Hall on the Summerville Campus is a designated location for Augusta University students and others in the community who need testing services.

“It makes me realize what we are doing is reaching students. It’s literally a spark that turns on when they realize what’s available to them, like assistive technology, that helps with note-taking, studying, writing essays and being more attentive in the classroom.”

Berger said success inside the classroom translates outside the classroom not only for students with disabilities but also all students at Augusta University, which ranked high in a national ranking of colleges that increase the economic mobility for low- and moderate-income students.

Berger understands “4 to Finish” plays a role in Augusta University’s overall achievements because it meets students where they are and trains them to get to where they’re going by encouraging them to implement four critical steps: engage, make purposeful choices, develop an academic mindset and follow their program pathway.

That’s what having an academic mindset is all about, she said.

“I tell them to think of their time at AU as a team. The professor is the coach, the other students are the teammates, and you have to use your ‘team’ all the time. You can’t expect help to come to you. TDS gets students help, but if they don’t use it, there’s no benefit.”

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Monique Williams
Written by
Monique Williams

Monique Williams is the communications strategist for the Division of Enrollment and Student Affairs at Augusta University. Have a student-focused story idea? Email her at mwilliams51@augusta.edu.

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Monique Williams Written by Monique Williams

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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