NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Known for her effervescence and “fanatical” love for Stephen F. Austin State University, Kate Childress, coordinator of the Student Success Center, has only one regret — that she can’t replicate herself so she can be in several places at the same time.
Her enthusiasm for the university was recognized and honored recently when the two-time graduate was named a 2023 recipient of the SFA President's Achievement Award.
“It’s a true honor to be recognized,” she said. “It’s been said that I’m fanatical about SFA, and those words couldn’t be any truer, based on my experiences as a student and as a staff member.”
Each fall, Childress welcomes a new cohort of about 130 first-generation students to campus in a group known as Generation Jacks. Her aim is to make sure they know there’s a support network that can alleviate their fears while feeding their ambitions. Academic counseling, sparking student connections and promoting campus involvement are all within Childress’ purview, and they can all lead to rewarding college and professional outcomes. Childress should know — as a first-generation student from Lumberton, she taps into her own experiences to mentor other first-gen students.
“You don’t know what you don’t know until you get to college,” she said. “There’s a lot of demand, a lot of students with a lot of questions. My biggest challenge is not being able to be in multiple places at one time.”
In addition to the dozens of tasks that never appear on the official list of job duties, Childress coordinates the Summer Leadership Academy, oversees the Smith-Hutson Scholarship Program for around 80 scholars, trains GenJacks counselors, pairs students with faculty and staff mentors, teaches SFAS 1101 New-Lumberjack Experience, and brought the National First-Generation College Student Week to campus.
According to an excerpt from Childress’ nomination, her effort and enthusiasm are deeply appreciated. The colleague who put her up for the award said, “I have been an SFA employee for nearly 19 years, and during that time, I have had the pleasure of coming into contact with a lot of great people. Kate is definitely among the most prominent.”
Childress’ coworker goes on to say that about four years ago, not long after Childress had been hired as an orientation leader, she had to handle an irate parent and did so with patience and grace.
“She made the parent feel important and heard, and resolved the issue quite professionally,” reads the nomination letter. “She’s maintained that level of compassion since then.”
For more information about the Student Success Center, visit sfasu.edu/ssc.