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New leadership for Student Support Services: Dr. Joy Coates

| Denise Olson


Dr. Joy Coates, director of Student Support Services

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has a new face of leadership in the Student Support Services (SSS) program, one of the units in the campus Division of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Student Affairs (EDISA).

Dr. Joy Coates joined the SSS staff Sept. 1 in the position of director, bringing with her over 20 years of work in higher education.

SSS at UW-Eau Claire comprises federally funded TRIO programming that provides a variety of supplemental academic and support services to students who demonstrate need for financial services, first-generation college students or students with eligible physical or learning disabilities.

Coates points to her own academic journey as one of her strongest qualifications for this role.

“As a first-generation college student, I am familiar with the many obstacles that can prohibit individuals from attaining the dream of higher education,” Coates says. “I also know it takes hard work, determination and resources to succeed academically. I am excited for this opportunity to ensure student success at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.”

Coates received a Fulbright-Hays fellowship to undertake dissertation fieldwork in England and Kenya, and completed her doctorate in history at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, a master’s degree in African American Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield and a bachelor’s degree at Columbia College Chicago.

Coates left a tenure-track position teaching history in 2011 when she made the move to student services and support roles. Her major positions in this realm have been:

  • Academic specialist, African American and African Studies, Michigan State University.
  • Acting/associate director, The Center for Black Studies, Northern Illinois University.
  • Administrator, TRIO Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • Department and program-level academic advising roles at multiple institutions.

Coates has earned honors and awards for her work in student support and advising, including a Director’s Service Award, a Best Cultural Resource Center Award and a Recognition Award for Supportive Staff, all at Northern Illinois University. Coates is a strong advocate for studying abroad and has taught, conducted research and led undergraduate travel to Gabon, Ghana and South Africa.   

Coates says she has spent most of the past month getting to know the SSS operations and staff and evaluating “where things stand” at this time.

“I’m getting myself connected, taking it all in — I'm really excited about helping students at UW-Eau Claire achieve their academic and professional goals,” Coates says.