Jill Childress: Meaningful intervention is key to student success
“When people make bad choices and they are at a crossroads … there is an opportunity for meaningful intervention to get them back on a path to success,” said Jill Childress, LBCC’s Manager of Student Conduct and Retention.
Childress supports the college’s compliance with federal and state regulatory guidance around hazing laws and reporting, Title IX, and the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act. Along with others at the college, she participates in safety and risk assessment to see that distressed or disruptive students are set up for success academically—ensuring their educational rights and due process—while balancing campus safety. She also serves as a faculty liaison and consultant, sharing communication strategies and de-escalation techniques for working with students, and finding ways to connect students to supportive resources.
Childress’ commitment to the work and her passion for students comes through immediately.
“It’s an opportunity to help students who might otherwise slip through the cracks,” she said. “I see myself as an educator who helps students reflect on their choices and see that their behavior affects others.”
When addressing students directly, Childress is quick to acknowledge that no one is perfect. “I try to get the message across that this doesn’t have to define their life. It can be an opportunity for resilience, character development, goal setting,” she said.
Childress described her case management load on the LBCC campus as “relatively low,” with most cases being academic intervention. And, while student accountability processes can be very formal in nature, her preference is for lower-level interventions that can be used to set expectations.
“I’ll ask a student ‘Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? How are your choices helping or hurting?’” she said.
Childress came to this work through her own college experience. She was a student leader – a former resident assistant and peer health educator – and saw how poor choices made by students could be an opportunity for character growth and development, noting that college is “a transformative experience” for students.
As a first-generation college student, Childress relied on mentors to help her navigate her college years. It was mentors who encouraged Childress on to graduate school to pursue a doctorate in Educational Leadership, which even today informs her practice and approach to the work.
“It’s important to consider questions like how are we educating students? How are we proactively and reactively supporting them? How do we assess what we’re doing? And how are we looking at empirical evidence and triangulating those things with campus resources to come up with the best approach for students?” she said.
In addition to the research methodologies and other skills Childress obtained in the pursuit of her doctoral degree, she gained insights that are especially valuable in today’s world.
The focus of her dissertation was how we can learn from difference. Specifically, she studied how conflict and interaction with those who are different from us can help further our own understanding and facilitate personal development and socially responsible leadership skills.
“I found that students today feel very deeply for their peers and students generally felt that conflict was healthy,” said Childress. “It gave me a lot of hope for the future.”