Meet Nina Baltierra, a real Upswing HERO
Her super power is asking questions, trying to get to the root cause of the challenge. She thrives on solving puzzles with her partner schools. And when she’s not checking in with student support teams to review goals and brainstorm new ways to connect students to campus resources, you’ll find her somewhere outside with her family — hiking, kayaking, paddle-boarding, or maybe lounging in a hammock with a good book or intriguing podcast. Meet Nina Baltierra, Upswing Higher Education Retention Officer, or HERO.
So what’s a HERO?
At Upswing, each partner school receives a HERO — short for Higher Education Retention Officer. That HERO is responsible for providing on-demand dedicated support for the college. According to Nina, “Our goals are our partners’ goals. We support our partners by showing them how to leverage the tools available through Upswing to reach students in order to keep them engaged and supported — with staying in school being the ultimate goal.”
In short, when you partner with Upswing, you have a support expert dedicated to your school — there to make the student experience better and make the job of campus support staff easier.
A day in the life
So what’s a typical day like for an Upswing HERO? “There is no such thing as a typical day, which is what makes it so fun for me,” Nina says with a laugh.
She goes on to rattle off a long list of “typical” daily activities: “Maybe I’ll have a team stand-up with my fellow HEROs. Then I’ll join a call about updates being made to the Upswing platform. Then I’ll have a touchpoint with the administrator at a partner school where we’ll check in on goals, review upcoming Ana messages and troubleshoot any issues. Then I might have a meeting with the Engagement Team to discuss ways to encourage more students to schedule tutoring sessions or submit their papers for review.
And throughout her day, when she’s not helping her partner schools, Nina says “I check in with my teammates on Slack and hope someone will post pictures of their dogs on the #pupswing channel.”
Cracking the code
When asked about the most rewarding part of her work, “solving puzzles with partners” is Nina’s reply. “When a partner comes to me with a need or a challenge, I try to go beyond simply relaying their request to our Product team. Instead, I take the time to understand their pain points, workflows and needs, thinking critically about what we can do to improve the user experience and make their jobs easier.”
And the result of this mindset? “It’s so satisfying when a partner and I are able to get on the same page and come up with a solution,” she says. Finding solutions specific to each partner’s needs is a key function of the HERO role.
From health policy to HERO
Prior to Upswing, Nina Baltierra was the Executive Director for a public health nonprofit that provided software tools to collect and visualize data on the sale and marketing of unhealthy substances, such as alcohol and tobacco. The purpose was to aid public health workers and citizens in passing policies that make their communities healthier and more equitable.
It’s a skillset — and collaborative mindset — that translated nicely into higher ed. Now as an Upswing Higher Ed Retention Officer, she supports her partners by showing them how to leverage the tools available through the Upswing platform. This includes the virtual assistant called Ana, access to around-the-clock network of academic coaches, and easy connections to a live person who can help with a full slate of academic and counseling concerns.
Heroic solutions that work
One of Nina’s most gratifying HERO moments came while working with the United Negro College Fund’s STEM Scholars Program. Working with the organization, she helped develop a detailed and targeted messaging plan for scholarship recipients who were at different institutions across the country incorporating Upswing’s virtual assistant, Ana.
“Typically, the UNCF STEM Scholars program staff does a mid-semester check-in where they call each of these scholars to see how they’re doing. In the 2021 Spring Term, we leveraged Ana to do the check-in for them. We heard back from 52% of their scholars — approximately double their typical response rate.”
As someone who works with college administrators and support staff each day, what superpower does Nina think higher ed could use right now?
“Boldness,” she says, without hesitation. “The higher ed landscape is changing so fast that institutions need to be bold as they try new things to support their students — especially nontraditional students that may be harder to reach and require innovative strategies for engaging.”
You need a hero!
What does Nina Baltierra say to college administrators considering partnering with Upswing?
“Try it! Not only will you like what the platform provides for your students, your tutors, your advisors and your staff, but you’ll also feel supported the whole way through by a team of caring, enthusiastic Upswingers.”