Receive dedicated support with your own Upswing HERO. Introducing Zhanna Vanderschoot.
What does it take to be a hero in higher education? Someone who cares deeply about student success. Or someone who relishes a good challenge and thrives on constantly learning. Maybe someone who not that long ago was a student herself — as a non-traditional, immigrant student trying to navigate the American higher ed system — so she can truly speak to today’s student experience? With Zhanna Vandersrchoot, Upswing Higher Education Retention Officer, or HERO, you get all of the above, and more.
Upswing is a virtual assistant and student services platform designed to reach, relate to and retain your non-traditional students. Each college partner receives an Upswing HERO — a one-stop resource person dedicated to providing expert, on-demand support for your school. And having been a non-traditional student herself, Zhanna knows first-hand what it’s like to be lost, confused and overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel — making her the ideal person to relate to and help with what your students are going through. It’s the ultimate circle of support, a win-win-win across the board.
An immigrant’s story
“Being an immigrant college student in the United States was extremely daunting for me and my family. All I knew was that I wanted to get a degree from an American university and make my family back in Kazakhstan proud,” Zhanna says passionately.
“It was a rocky journey filled with so many lessons from various directions. I didn’t know how to navigate through the application process and I didn’t understand which degree would point my life in the right direction. I was constantly trying to find ways to pay for my education.” While Zhanna’s story is heartfelt and personal, the unfortunate reality is that the struggles she faced are anything but unusual.
“Because of this journey, I knew that I wanted to help other non-traditional students overcome their challenges. For me, higher education gave me the tools to pursue the dreams that other women in my family could not. I am beyond grateful that I can now provide support to students as they pursue their goals.”
A heroic outlook on life
For the past year-and-a-half, Zhanna has been a HERO with Upswing, serving a growing roster of college clients. So what does it mean to her to be a HERO?
“To me, it means waking up every morning and looking forward to my day. Early on in my career, I learned that doing work that’s bigger than just me has been the biggest source of my happiness. I am very fortunate to say that I believe in what I do here as a HERO. I’m also very thankful to work with people that make such an amazing impact on the lives of the students we help.”
A day in the life
For Zhanna, one of the great things about being a HERO is that the role is truly multifaceted.
“A typical day for me starts out with everyone’s favorite — Emails! I check all my communication channels in order to make sure I answer any questions and concerns from the school administrators I work with first thing each day.”
“Then I start on my list of tasks for the day,” she continues. “These tasks revolve around troubleshooting issues for my schools, taking care of onboarding with new schools and everything in between.”
“Last but not least, I have internal meetings peppered throughout my day, as well as my monthly touchpoints with my school administrators and anything else that comes up.”
When she’s not hard at work, you can find Zhanna making memories with her loved ones, dancing, and buying clothes to dress up her dog, Armie.
A superpower that’s super for higher ed
Zhanna says her superpower is learning and adapting in order to tackle the challenges that come her way as a HERO. “Every time I think ‘okay, I have done this before,’ something new comes along that keeps me on my toes. No matter how difficult the task or process might be, the fact that I’m constantly learning fuels me.” It’s this fire — and the continual desire to learn — that makes Zhanna such a valuable asset to her partner schools.
As someone who works with college administrators and support staff each day, what superpower does Zhanna think higher ed could use right now?
“Funding,” she says. “There are so many institutions that are not able to provide the necessary resources to their students due to funding. And it’s hard to watch things stagnate and not improve because of money.”
Even with funding, Zhanna says that doesn’t necessarily mean that students are feeling seen, heard and supported. So she has a superpower she’d love to grant to students too. “I wish students were more aware that there are passionate individuals at their institutions who see their potential and believe in them. We see the importance of this connection every day through our interactions with Ana (the Upswing virtual assistant). It would be amazing if that was the student’s superpower!”
You need a hero!
What does Zhanna Vanderschoot say to college administrators considering partnering with Upswing?
“First, I would say that my appreciation for the work my school partners are doing continually increases. Every time I think to myself ‘wow, that is so much to handle, how in the world are they doing all of this,’ they come right back and blow me away again.”
She also says she admires these administrators’ capacity to remain focused, adaptable and driven, even in the eye of the storm. “The strength and devotion to their mission is impressive,” she notes. “Knowing this fuels us with motivation. I believe that any Upswing team member who comes in contact with such inspiring individuals is honored to be part of their support system. Because that’s what we are — we are your team!