Sam Cotter returned to his college roots this fall. He didn’t come back to the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point at Wausau as an anxious first-year student just out of high school. He returned as a confident employee, equipped with the knowledge to guide post-secondary students on making the most of their higher education experiences.
The 22-year-old admissions adviser and career coach is responsible for recruiting new students to the three UW-Stevens Point campuses from 14 counties in north and northeast Wisconsin, from Ashland to Marinette and from Wausau to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“I just love this campus,” said Cotter, who began his college journey in fall 2014 in Wausau at UW-Marathon County, after graduating from Faith Christian Academy in Wausau. “I never thought I’d be working here. I want more students to come here and experience the same great education I had.” He earned his associate degree in 2016 and transferred to UW-Stevens Point, where he graduated in 2018 with degrees in sociology and social work.
Cotter visits middle schools and high schools, meeting guidance counselors and students and participating in workshops, including state-mandated Academic & Career Planning sessions for public school students. He has visited nearly 30 schools since starting in September.
When meeting with high school students, Cotter listens more than he talks so he can best answer questions about specific majors, the application and admissions process. He offers advice to help students achieve their education and career goals.
“I try to be as individualized as possible. I ask them about their values and where they want to go with their futures,” he said. “It is important to listen and to help clear up some of their general questions, including the requirements to pursue a technical degree versus an associate or bachelor’s degree. I was a student ambassador while attending UWMC, which helped me get familiar with the ins and outs of the university, including admissions criteria.”
Cotter’s college education prepared him well for this new campus position, according to Ann Herda-Rapp, campus executive at UW-Stevens Point at Wausau. “As a sociology and social work major, Sam has a solid understanding of what’s going on in the wider world, of the value of a bachelor’s degree and of the challenges some students face in making that dream a reality,” she said. “He’s especially skilled in helping students navigate the application process and prepare to make a successful transition to college.”
Cotter has much in common with many of the students he recruits. “I’m learning affordability is a big priority for many of them,” he said. “I’ve always been afraid of debt too. As a student, I was able to finish here (associate’s degree) without any debt.”
Beyond cost savings, Cotter tells students of other advantages to starting at UW-Stevens Point’s Wausau or Marshfield branch campuses. “You’re in smaller classes so you’re able to build relationships with professors. It’s easy to access tutors for help in English and math. Plus, our associate degree graduates can transfer seamlessly to our main campus to earn their bachelor’s degrees or anywhere within the UW System.”
Cotter is impressed with many of the high school students he meets. “They have high aspirations. Some want to go onto medical school. Others want to be teachers,” he said. “I get to share in their excitement for the future and help make that happen, which is very rewarding.”