Moving forward on Student Success and Persistence

Dear Shocker family:

We want to thank you for taking part in the town hall event in February, where we introduced our Student Success and Persistence (SSP) initiative, which focuses on giving our students the tools they need to succeed. If you were unable to attend, we hope you take the opportunity to watch a recording of the event, as this initiative requires that every member of our faculty and staff participate.

A key message shared during the town hall was “Student Success is everyone’s responsibility.” To help illustrate this point, members of the President’s Executive Team shared three strategies they are going to own to advance this ideal.

  1. Foster a culture of empowerment, leadership and ownership.
  2. Adopt an Equity-first mindset and student-centered approach that leads to increased graduation rates.
  3. Provide strategic education on and promotion of financial wellness.

In addition, during the town hall, many of you participated in a workshop, where we shared our thoughts and ideas about how to support students and help them succeed. The following themes were aggregated from the results of those discussions:

  • Connection and relationships: It’s critical that we establish connections among students, faculty, staff and mentors to create a welcoming and supportive environment for students to feel like they belong.
  • Access to resources: Students need access to resources — such as academic support, mental health resources and financial aid — to succeed.
  • Personalization: Instructors who engage with students, take an interest in their success and personalize their experiences can have a positive impact on student success.
  • Decrease stigma associated with accessing resources: Students need to be encouraged to seek help from mentors and resources without feeling stigmatized.
  • Student engagement: Encouraging students to get involved in research projects, organizations and events can help them feel connected to the university community.
  • Faculty and staff engagement: Faculty and staff who care about students and make an effort to connect with them can have a positive impact on student success.
  • Clarity: Clear processes and support are necessary for students to navigate their academic experiences, and advisers play a critical role in guiding students through these processes.
  • Validation of student experiences: Students need to feel validated in their experiences, and their mental health should be a priority.
  • Individuality: Students should be treated as individuals and not just as numbers.

Those themes will be the guideposts to creating programs and resources to ensure our students have what they need to succeed.

We have created a Student Success and Persistence Coalition to help us along this journey. Representatives from across the university have been chosen to drive this initiative.

  • Gina Crabtree, interim assistant VP of SSP and Registrar’s Office
  • Vince Altum, International Education
  • Moriah Beck, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry/Retention Fellows coordinator
  • Bobby Berry, College of Applied Studies and First-Generation Coordinating Council
  • Brien Bolin, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Jason Bosch, College of Engineering
  • Zachary Brown, Barton School of Business
  • Aaron Coffey, Graduate School
  • Shelly Coleman-Martins, Strategic Communications
  • Bobby Gandu, Undergraduate Admissions
  • Linnea GlenMaye, Academic Affairs
  • Teri Hall, Student Affairs
  • Aaron Hamilton, OneStop Student Services/First-year Advising
  • John Hammond, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
  • Wendy Hanes, College of Fine Arts
  • Ashlie Jack, Academic Affairs
  • Shirley Lefever, Academic Affairs
  • Sara Mata, Hispanic Service Institution (HSI) Initiatives
  • Voncella McCleary-Jones, College of Health Professions
  • Alicia Newell, Student Affairs
  • John Perry, Barton School of Business
  • Anna Porcaro, Office of Online and Adult Learning
  • Chelsea Redger-Marquardt, Honors College
  • Kim Sandlin, Office of Student Success
  • Steven Skinner, College of Engineering
  • Sheelu Surender, Office Financial Aid
  • Sarah Taylor, Department of Public Health Sciences
  • David Wright, Academic Affairs

As we said during the town hall, Student Success and Persistence is not something that we can tackle alone. This is very much a group project. It requires a commitment from each of us to help each individual student find resources to overcome any obstacles impeding their pathway to a degree. That might be connecting them to tutoring or financial aid, helping them find a paid applied learning opportunity, or simply creating a welcoming environment for them in your classroom or office. Each of us has the power to change a student’s trajectory and empower them to achieve their goals.

Just a few simple ideas that you can implement today:

  • Course instructors might make a commitment to routinely use the Student Early Alert System to inform students that you recognize behaviors that may indicate additional academic support is warranted. SEAS is a system that generates an email to students outlining the reasons for faculty concerns, such as not attending classes or poor performance in assignments. This can then prompt faculty to take actions to discuss with students about how to improve classroom performance.
  • All of us can engage with students when we see them in class or in the RSC. Check in with them, ask questions about how they are doing.
  • For offices that employ students, get to know them as individuals and check in on them regularly.
  • If a student comes to you with a problem, really listen. The phrase “tell me more about that” is a good way to get more information so that you can point to resources that help them.
  • Make time for students. When we promptly return emails, texts and phone calls from students it sends the message they are important, and we care about their success.

Again, we encourage everyone to engage in this work and welcome any comments or ideas to help move this initiative forward. In the meantime, we urge you to stay updated on new developments, share ideas to improve student persistence, and connect with a student every day!

President Rick Muma
Provost Shirley Lefever