Innovation360’s Academic Support Program is More Important Than Ever

Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, Innovation360 had developed a robust accountability and organizational program for students needing support navigating school courses and career development. Rachel Mayer, who spearheaded this programming, became familiar with Innovation360 by independently working with mutual clients as an Academic Consultant. She was so struck by the novelty and effectiveness of Life Development (LD) that she interviewed and became an LD team member herself. In no time, she had developed a whole other wing of programming, specific to the needs of academic and project support.


Elizabeth Devine, Innovation360’s Executive Director stated, “Many of our students understand what needs to be done, but the follow through is really a struggle- sustained follow through, even more so.” The blend of mental health treatment and focused academic support have yielded astounding results. Students are now able to make more informed and personalized decisions regarding their degree plans, course selection, communication with professors, and, most importantly, get the job done. 


Now, in the wake of a global pandemic, with universities and academic institutions across the nation switching over to online formats, this support is more important than ever. Recent sessions focused on sorting through the flood of information students were given about their courses via various online platforms. In virtual academic sessions with Rachel, clients update weekly calendars of assignments and review them at the start of each week. This has helped students stay on top of deadlines and juggle online zoom class sessions.


In addition, with students largely staying home, Innovation360 is capitalizing on this unexpected extra time to help clients further map out their future. Students are digging deeper into career exploration by talking to professionals in clients’ fields of interest. Armed with information about the requirements for specific career paths, Innovation360 helps students build future goals and break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. Students report that they enjoy this process and that having stated goals keeps their mind focused on the future and the promise it holds- a sharp contrast from the stand-still world we are currently in.

The Unanticipated Success of Life Development in the Time of COVID-19

Austin has always been a perfect city to engage in therapeutic relationships with the clients of Innovation360. Life Development, a unique service built on meeting clients where they are, both literally and figuratively, usually takes place in clients’ homes, school campuses, or greenbelts- challenging them to make progress toward their therapeutic goals. We lean heavily on the cultural, natural, and commercial resources of the incredible city that is Austin. 

However, in the midst of a pandemic, as our city grinds to a halt, the lives of those we serve must go on. 

For all of us, COVID-19 has presented unprecedented obstacles. There is no minimizing that. However, Innovation360 is rather practiced at confronting obstacles. In fact, the very foundation of our work is that, when confronted with a challenge, we respond with creativity, compassion, resiliency and, as much fun as we can muster. In true form, we have taken on the difficulties of showing up for clients in the age of social distancing and found a way to meet them where they are, but from a safe distance. For many clients this has meant shifting to virtual Life Development sessions. And we are blown away by just how successful it has been.

For virtual sessions, we allow clients to peer into the homes of Life Development team members and see how we live. Clients watch us cook breakfast across a high-speed connection, spills and all. While they are doing chores around their houses, they see us doing ours. We go for walks where accountability around exercise and healthy habits (like being outside) are encouraged. Sometimes we bring our dogs and it is quickly revealed that the client’s dog is better behaved. We join clients in online recovery support meetings (occasionally forgetting the mute button is on).

The benefits from going virtual was not something we could have anticipated. Previously, a client would see us arrive on session dressed, polished, and ready to go. Clients may have felt the need to keep up, to pretend, but virtual LD has leveled the playing field in a significant way. Unloading the dishwasher, making the bed, and washing dirty clothes are no longer a one-way street.

Innovation360 has always been invested in making sure that we enter into a client’s life where they need us. Our focus is on being present, partnering with our clients, all while showing we are human too. It’s the foundation of our model. Virtual Life Development has made our authenticity even more visible. They are invited to see the things on our to-do list. They are welcomed into the parts of our lives that need attention. They learn that we are not experts at life, but we do show up well for it. They see that they can too. We couldn’t have known that virtual LD would further humanize an already humanitarian endeavor, but, without question, it certainly has.