Using NameCoach for Equitable Student Support Services


According to Beckie Supiano in “How Colleges Can Cultivate Students’ Sense of Belonging”, a growing body of research has linked students’ sense of belonging on their campuses to a number of important outcomes, including their persistence in college and even their well-being. As a result, some colleges make an effort to help students- especially members of underrepresented groups- cultivate that sense.  The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Aligned with Chancellor Oakley’s Vision for Success to fully close CCC equity gaps, the CVC-OEI provides colleges with innovative tools, technology, and professional development in the areas of instruction and student services.  These ongoing efforts include applying an equity lens to address the disparate impact and surface institutional and systemic barriers in order to increase student success.

Darnell G. Cole, an associate professor and co-director of the Center for Education, Identity, and Social Justice at the USC, agrees that colleges should not take students’ sense of belonging for granted. Cole encourages colleges to have “a structure in place that’s designed to communicate that students matter. Just because students got into a college doesn’t mean they feel at home there.”  The Chronicle of Higher Education. Creating a sense of belonging and inclusion resulted in improved academic performance when the University of Texas improved outreach efforts by sending welcome and belonging messages to students from marginalized communities. In The Problem of Othering: Towards Inclusiveness and Belonging, john a. powell, offers belongingness as a way to move beyond tolerance and respect to ensuring that all people are welcome and feel that they belong in society. Prudence L. Carter, reflecting on Brown v. Board of Education, in Equity and Empathy: Toward Racial and Educational Achievement in the Obama Era, suggests our policies and practices must be student centered and reflect an institution’s intention, commitment to, and consistent efforts toward actively incorporating students from marginalized communities into every facet of the educational process…in classrooms, counseling sessions, categorical programs, and in the delivery of student services.


The CVC-OEI is supporting efforts in the California Community Colleges (CCC) to increase students’ sense of belonging in online instruction by providing innovative tools such as NameCoach, a new tool that nurtures inclusion in the classroom, available to all OEI consortiums colleges at no cost and available to all non-consortium CCCs at a discounted price. Founder and CEO of NameCoach, Praveen Shanbhag, developed the software to enable true inclusion in school communities through technology. NameCoach is a tool for students to record a pronunciation of their name and convey their gender, and easily share this with instructors, administration, staff, and student peers. The CVC-OEI will incorporate this software to foster belonging in other campus settings, such as the delivery of online student support services.

Why NameCoach?  Educators often struggle with correctly pronouncing the names of students from diverse populations. This software addresses the problem of name mispronunciation and misgendering.  According to Dereca Blackmon, Associate Dean and Director of the Diversity and First Generation Student Office, Stanford University, NameCoach makes it easy for students’ identities and cultures to be respected. “Belonging Uncertainty” is heightened for students of color and this sense of belonging is not equally distributed for students from traditionally marginalized communities. Mispronouncing students’ names and using the wrong pronouns can increase ‘belonging uncertainty,’ which Stanford research shows can affect students’ performance, stress levels and overall sense of being a valued part of community.” It is also a constant reminder to students that they do not belong. This also applies to misgendering.

Student feedback stresses the positive impact of using NameCoach. “This is great! This is why we push and remain critical. Instituting seemingly small things like this can have the largest impact on campus culture. It is a recognition of the value of diversity on campus.”  

NameCoach can be incorporated in online counseling, online mental health services, financial aid online support and online tutoring. Online Counselors will finally have an opportunity to properly pronounce their students names during counseling sessions, leading to increased student engagement and trust.  Traditionally used in instruction, NameCoach will expand into online student support services. Using NameCoach is an important step on the road to making student services more inclusive, welcoming and belonging.

Would you like to learn more about using NameCoach to create a sense of belonging within Student Services? Join us on February 1, 2019 at 12pm for a free webinar!

Posted in Articles, Student Support Services.

Arnita Porter is the Online Student Equity Coordinator for Online Student Experience with the CVC-OEI.


  1. I’m getting lots of requests for integration into other services since our student services faculty and staff aren’t in Canvas. They have an API and other tools, so might try to load into Starfish or other things. Anyone done this already?

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