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New students get the warmest ‘hello’ from director of student programs



Photo by Lauren Franco

Abilene Christian is the highest-ranking university in Texas in a U.S. News and World Report benchmark focused on student success. Here is a look at some of the people and programs that make our student experience exceptional.

Although she stands only 4 feet 11 inches tall, her role on campus is large.

The spunky and energetic director of student programs and organizations, Caddie Coupe (’07), organizes and oversees Wildcat Week, an extended orientation experience designed to prepare students for their transition to Abilene Christian University. During Wildcat Week, students build friendships with future classmates while experiencing the traditions of ACU and learning what it truly means to be a Wildcat.

Wildcat Week is inspired by the understanding that students attending the university are not “one-size-fits-all,” Coupe said. More than 70 different activities are offered for students  – some for introverts looking for small-group coffee time and others for extroverts seeking interpersonal energy from Mentor Group Olympics.

One of Coupe’s favorite events during Wildcat Week is ACU Fest, in which incoming students interact with some of the clubs on campus. Other annual events include a block party in downtown Abilene with local food trucks and representatives from college ministries, a concert (this year’s featured artist was Johnnyswim) and opportunities to do a service project alongside other students.

 Another new student event organized by Coupe is Family Weekend, which helps freshmen and transfer students acquire a sense of ownership at ACU, she said. The weekend, which is held in September each year, features the annual Freshman Follies variety show, an ACU football game, tailgate and much more.

“In those first four weeks [of the semester], we transition to ‘this is my bed, this is my room, this is my home.’ Having parents get a first-hand glimpse of that is really exciting. Hopefully, that gives parents and families the opportunity to feel like their son or daughter is in the right place,” Coupe said.

The driving force for the love of her job is Coupe’s desire to have something for everyone. She tries to meet students where they are, but also challenges them to step out of their comfort zones. Showcasing “how awesome ACU is, how cool we are” is something she said she takes seriously.

Although she serves the incoming class, she regularly works alongside upperclassmen like Megan Fridge, a marketing major from Houston.

“Caddie is so strategic about planning a variety of events that include people of different interests, majors and backgrounds,” said Fridge, who works year-round with Coupe planning events. “That has always been so important to her. I don’t think anyone would think of her as a traditional boss. She’s super fun, leads by example and puts in 100 percent every day so that the students who work for her are motivated to do the same.”

Whether handing out extra food vouchers during the block party, speaking in front of students at a congress meeting, or watching her hard work pay off behind the scenes, Coupe shows her passion through her optimistic attitude.

“The most important aspect of my job is that I’m mentoring students to make wise choices, to think outside the box, to push boundaries in a good way,” Coupe said. “When I work with students, I’m encouraging them to be their best selves and give their best selves to this campus.  I really want the students to shine.”

(Adapted from an article that originally appeared in The Optimist)

A focus on student success

The special attention given to guiding new students as they transition into college life helped ACU earn accolades from U.S. News and World Report’s benchmark based on student success. ACU was the highest-ranking university in Texas in the magazine’s new category, “A Focus on Student Success.” Nationally, ACU achieved Top 20 status in three of eight high-impact categories:

  • Service Learning – #4
  • First-Year Experience – #9
  • Learning Communities – #11

The only other Texas universities in the Top 20 of the new benchmark were Baylor, Rice and The University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, ACU was ranked in the Top 50 in the nation in two other categories:

  • Study Abroad – #35 (tie)
  • Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects – #42 (tie)

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