“Reaching Retention Goals Through Collaboration with Academic Affairs” with Paige Illum, Ph.D. of Avila University

Paige Illum

By: Paige Illum, Ph.D. Coordinator of Retention and the First Year Experience Avila University Kansas City, MO

Departmental collaboration is a must in this era of limited time, money and personnel resources.  Not only is it smart in regard to resources but working interdepartmentally makes campus relationships stronger.  Additionally, student success and attainment of enrollment goals are more likely.

Specifically, here are three ways to increase the connectivity between retention and academic affairs.

1. MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) There is no doubt technology speaks to this generation of student (Levine & Dean, 2012).  As we look for ways to further engage our students, technology can be an excellent tool.  One of the areas receiving attention within higher education is MOOCS.  Consider this: MOOCS can be a way to communicate student success strategies to large audiences of students within your campus… and even beyond.  To get started on your campus the enrollment management area selects topic(s) that relate to institutional attrition data (i.e. first generation college students, academically underprepared students, probation students, off-campus students, etc.) and faculty offer classroom expertise in a variety of areas including pedagogy, assignments and assessments.  This is a perfect combination of two institutional areas using their areas of expertise to reach a goal.

This concept can be used as a summer bridge course, part of a requirement for first year seminar or during the term following a students’ placement on academic probation to increase their likelihood of academic success.

Lastly, it doesn’t have to begin with a massive course of a global magnitude.  The “massive” could stand for “mini” or “moderate” in the beginning and it could grow to massive levels.  The other MOOC characteristics such as interactivity, video lectures, open access, no expense to students, discussion forums, and community building between individual students and students and instructors can be the cornerstone of this concept.  Not to mention, common intellectual experiences and collaborative assignments and projects are considered high–impact educational practices that further engage students (Kuh, 2008).  These also happen to be characteristics of MOOCS!

2. Common Reading Programs Common Reading Programs are another avenue to further engage students and increase the likelihood of retention through a common intellectual experience (Kuh, 2008).  Here are some ways to partner with faculty and build a stronger program for students.  First, include faculty on the book selection committee. Second, require students to write an essay on the common reading (connect this to a first year seminar assignment) and collaborate with English faculty.  Utilizing the experience of English faculty regarding potential essay questions and assignment details will likely mirror the type of essay a student will experience in a composition course.  This will introduce a student to true academic expectations.  Third, create discussion groups during new student orientation that are divided by academic major and ask faculty to help with the discussion group.  Slant the discussion toward topics related to academic major while introducing a new student to an instructor within their major.

3. Faculty Liaisons There is no doubt a retention committee inclusive of faculty, staff and students is necessary.  However, this concept can be taken a step further.  Create an elected or selected position within the faculty assembly or senate to serve as a liaison to the area of retention.  First, the person in this position serves as a retention champion within the academic realm helping to move forward institutional enrollment goals.  Second, this person provides meaningful information to faculty including cohort retention data, graduation data, national best practices, institutional retention initiatives and institutional and national retention survey data to name a few.  Third, this faculty position and the chief retention officer meet regularly to keep open lines of communication and further move forward issues related to student engagement and ultimately retention.

There are many ways the retention department and academic affairs can collaborate and these are just three examples.  Other ways to collaborate include first year seminar, academic advising, general retention committees and educational campus speakers.  As enrollment management professionals we must focus on issues related to retaining our students and we must learn how to make this a campus-wide effort by utilizing the expertise of others and partnering with colleagues across the quad.

Bibliography Kuh, George (2008). High–impact educational practices.  Association of American Colleges and Universities: Washington, DC. Levine, Arthur & Dean, Diane R. (2012). Generation on a tightrope: a portrait of today’s college student. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

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