What if you had a single touchpoint for solving your problems? For Batman, that’s his trusted and resourceful butler, Pennyworth. For Harry Potter, the terribly clever yet underappreciated best friend, Hermionie. Silicon Valley wanted your go-to at a crossroads to be either Siri or Alexa. But for students at TC, that resource has emerged as the Office of Student Support & Advocacy. 

In the face of an unanticipated challenge, the office is often a student's first call. Director Lema Moliga handles the rest, connecting students in need with the resources available to them at Teachers College and Columbia University to help support their personal and academic journeys. 

Lema Moliga and Thomas Rock. (Photos: TC Archives) 

“There are a lot of students who come to TC really focused on their goals, and sometimes life happens. It is not what they were expecting and it’s challenging in different ways for them,” explains Moliga. “We’re thinking about the whole student, and things that happen outside of the classroom affect their experience.”

The office — which operates as one of four offices under Student Affairs in the new Division of Enrollment and Student Success — was established in alignment with President Thomas Bailey’s strategic focus on student pathways, which aims to provide comprehensive, coordinated support to help students succeed at TC and beyond. 

Right now I am living happily in New York just because of Student Support & Advocacy…Really appreciate SSA's help; cannot get through something without you [sic], and will keep the warmth in mind forever.


For those dedicated to working on student success, a key principal informs their thinking: the “three E’s (entry, engagement and exit),” explains Thomas Rock, Associate Vice President & Chief Student Affairs Officer. The Student Support and Advocacy Office, alongside TC NEXT and Graduate Student Life and Development, plays a key role in providing another engagement outpost to help meet student needs. 

“Our team is focused on building better systems, processes, staffing models and organizational structures that support students no matter where they are in their journey,” explains Rock. “Lema’s work in the Office of Student Support & Advocacy is critical. We wanted to create a safe space in a non-clinical setting for students to discuss anything that is impacting their success at TC . . . We have been saying: ‘If you have a dilemma, go see Lema,’ as a way for students to know what this office can do for them.”

Established in the fall of 2022, Moliga has received more than 200 requests for support and referrals to date. Upon connecting with the office, each student will receive an hour of dedicated support, during which time Moliga learns about the issues at hand, connects the student with resources and helps the student pursue the next step. Continued support follows, sometimes leading to regular meetings as necessary or helping the student access additional support. 

“Believe in my words: I am inspired by the Office of Student Support and Advocacy. I am going to start this kind of office in my school. I know this kind of office and team can enrich the lives of students. I really respect you — team, Lema and everyone. I would love to say thanks to those people who have conceptualized the concept of this office in TC.” -Anonymous

Though her quest is new, Moliga has spent more than eight years supporting students in the TC community, previously in her various Office of Residential Services roles, during which she was immersed in the daily variables that impact students and their academic success. 

“You have to do a lot of quick problem solving in responding to crisis situations, and that has really helped me in this position. Understanding what that looks like and follow up that needs to happen,” explains Moliga. “Students faced with challenging circumstances that impact their TC journey need an immediate response.” 

Lema is very helpful. She helped me immensely. I was struggling significantly, and she introduced me to various resources that I could benefit from, including referrals to wellness coaching...I feel supported and a sense of belonging, feelings I've never experienced before.