Larry Gourdine, associate dean and director of Student Assistance and Support Services (SASS), understands firsthand the barriers that many students face at UNC Charlotte.
Students can experience nonacademic stressors that affect their social or academic performances. Pressure to graduate with straight A’s or even to graduate at all can feel like an impossible feat. Some students, for example, admit to working more than 60 hours a week, facing financial issues and at times interpersonal concerns.
“We solve problems here,” Gourdine said. “Students often come into the office with one problem and together, we peel back the layers to understand what may be happening to create those issues: homelessness, hunger or the inability to pay for medication.”
SASS provides assistance and support to students who are experiencing the myriad issues that can interfere with an individual’s ability to be successful at the University.
“Students are experiencing a lot outside of the University,” Gourdine explained. “Personal situations impact a student’s ability to be successful here at the University and ultimately affect retention.
“My office sees a broad range of issues that students face; situations impacting mental and physical health. We (SASS) are in the Division of Student Affairs, but we also have to understand policies and procedures on the academic side of the University to ensure that students understand the options available to them to continue to their education,” added Gourdine.
A graduate of Murray State University, Gourdine has a bachelor's degree in health and physical education. He completed a Master of Public Health with a concentration in gerontology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Gourdine began his career with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as director of parity and diversity. He later applied to N.C. State University to work in its health center. While there, he began to learn more about professions in student affairs.
“I love being on a college campus,” Gourdine said. “I love the energy, and I fundamentally believe this is what I was put on this earth to do. It took me 30 years to connect the dots, but I accept that responsibility, and I love it.”
In 2014, Gourdine joined the Division of Student Affairs at UNC Charlotte. Prior to that, he assisted students at the University of Georgia and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“Being at UNC Charlotte, I have the opportunity to create and innovate,” he said. “The energy, the excitement, the liberty, the expression of ideas, UNC Charlotte is a shining star and game-changer for the UNC System.”
As Gourdine and his team help students who arrive at SASS, he plans to continue conducting workshops to train faculty and staff on how to respond effectively when students are experiencing a crisis. Spreading the importance of understanding students holistically is an essential function for SASS.
“Know your resources on campus, we expect students to take responsibility for their actions, but we are always here to support their success” he said.