Theresa LaRocco, Records Supervisor for the Graduate School, gives excellent student service on a personal level, which helps student retention. She recently created an instructional video for graduate students. She developed a video with Dr. Elizabeth Wilkins, Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction (formerly Literacy and Elementary Education) and Co-Coordinator of the Graduate Career and Professional Development Center in the Graduate School, entitled “Preparing to Graduate: Critical Information You Need to Know.”
LaRocco shared with Wilkins the fact that students were asking a considerable amount of questions through voicemail and email. Wilkins suggested that she use PowerPoint technology to create an online video that would clarify the graduation deadline system for the students using multi-platform technology to reach students by computer, tablet or telephone. “She brainstormed, wrote the script and put forth the idea from a student perspective. Enhancement of communication is so good for students because it makes the pathway for graduation much more understandable and streamlined for them,” said Wilkins. She said that LaRocco has excellent insight on the common areas where students lack full understanding. When students are at the stage where they need the information, the video is attached to their audit report. The video, which has been viewed more than 900 times since its implementation in October 2016, has cut down on students’ questions considerably, which saves time for the Graduate School staff and the students.
Dana Hughes, Administrative Assistant for the Graduate School, said that LaRocco is a hardworking employee and an excellent co-worker and thinks that the service that LaRocco provides for students definitely helps with graduate student retention. “She truly cares about the students and goes above and beyond to get things done,” Dana Hughes said. “In her position she deals mostly with currently enrolled students, many of whom appreciate her help so much that they take the time to send her a thank you note for going the extra mile to solve their problem.”
One of LaRocco’s favorite memories is about a student that she met at the Naperville campus during a “Writing a Dissertation” workshop. LaRocco always sits at the back of the room during these workshops, where students can come by with their individual questions regarding degree progress and graduation deadlines.
“One student sat down and talked about how she didn’t think she was close to graduating. She stated she had missed many deadlines and asked if I could check her degree progress,” said LaRocco. “Once I started comparing her degree progress report and her file, I found she wasn’t far away from achieving her goal. She was so happy to hear what I was saying, she started crying.”
LaRocco helps NIU graduate students by processing schedule changes, updating degree progress reports, posting degrees and answering emails and voicemail messages. In addition to working with the students, she communicates with staff from all the NIU schools and departments and works with her Graduate School colleagues. Wilkins said, “Theresa LaRocco is a true gem. She helps her team to be as sufficient as possible. Theresa provides support for the students at all ends: start, middle and finish,” said Wilkins.
“I have many interests outside of work. My most recent is learning how to crochet for The Giving Project [sponsored by the Operating Staff Council] here at NIU. I recently finished a sleeping mat for the homeless and have started crocheting scarves for our NIU Huskie students,” said LaRocco.