Reflections on ACE

“So, what makes Starfish different?”

Maybe I need to rehearse my elevator pitch a bit more, but this was the question that I, the person responsible for Starfish product direction, should be most equipped to answer. While I could have talked about our history as the first patented solution for student success, our democratized approach to predictive analytics, or our numerous awards as a Guided Pathways provider, this was not what immediately jumped to mind. Instead, and without hesitation, I responded, “Our passion and our mission is what sets us apart.”

Nowhere was this reflected better than in the panel discussion moderated by my colleague, Ellyn Artis, where Bernie Savarese, Assistant Vice President for Student Success from NYU, and Melissa Sturm-Smith, Associate Provost for Academic Excellence and Student Success from Drake University talked about their institutions’ client success plans. Both NYU and Drake are high achieving universities with retention and graduation rates in the top 10% of schools in the nation. Yet both leaders stood in front of a standing room only audience, many of whom would likely be thrilled with the numbers flashing up on the projector, and delivered the message that they weren’t satisfied.

At Starfish, we believe that no student deserves to go home empty-handed. We will not be satisfied until every student in higher education is supported from the moment they step foot on campus through to their professional journey, and we are energized by partnering with schools and organizations who share that vision. Schools like NYU and Drake who are pushing for single digit yearly improvements to their existing 90%+ retention rates. Hearing each one of these stories reminds me that student success isn’t just about technology (though we are pretty good at that too). In fact, the thing that I am most proud to hear routinely at conferences and from our clients, ACE being no exception, is “Starfish really cares, and it shows.” So, as I sit on this train heading back to the Starfish headquarters, I’m grateful for our institutional partners and our Starfish team whose passion, authenticity, and dedication are infused in everything we do.

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