Models of Excellence: Winter 2015.


Serving the whole student

Effective student success initiatives begin long before that first day of classes and often continue beyond graduation. They contribute to a complete education experience, intended to attract the right students, help them find their passions, keep them in school and boost their chances for post-graduation success. The colleges and universities highlighted in the third round of UB's national Models of Excellence awards program demonstrate a commitment to that holistic experience.

An undecided student is an unfocused student, so many schools require the declaration of a major early on. One of our Models of Excellence institutions requires all students to enroll in a degree-granting program by the time they receive 45 credit hours. The goal is to increase the retention rate of undecided freshmen by requiring them to select a concentration from eight options upon admission.

Another college has seen firsthand how an online writing lab can help students communicate clearly and concisely. Built using responsive design in an open source environment, the lab builds writing skills in eight areas. Proof of its success is its adoption by 70 institutions worldwide.

Lots of students take advantage of study groups. It is always effective when classmates can come together to reinforce concepts. But what if the study group was super-sized into a living and learning community? That's what one northeastern university does, by creating special housing for students who have common academic interests.

Staying on target means keeping up with coursework and meeting other obligations, such as registering for classes, meeting deadlines and paying fees. And, yes, there's an app for that. At one California university, a homegrown iOS app lets students organize coursework, extracurricular activities and personal tasks. It also creates categories based on class schedules and has a smart class planner, color-coded workload views and task alerts. Moreover, the app's content and features update frequently as administrators analyze user data.

College leaders know that learning by doing reinforces necessary concepts and skills, so they create internship programs that allow students to work within the community. One New England college starts students preparing for internships in the fall of freshman year. Students must complete three internships: two 120-hour experiences during their freshman and sophomore years plus a full-semester internship during the fall of their senior year. The college offers a number of initiatives designed to make the intern experience productive and rewarding for both the student and employer. Students say these efforts helped them find a job after graduation.

The colleges and universities profiled in the following pages understand the importance of their roles in promoting student success, and will no doubt inspire other schools to adopt similar innovations.

--Tim Goral, senior editor, UB

State Fair Community College

Navigation Advising

Advising at State Fair Community College in Missouri begins not just when students enroll, but before they even apply.

State Fair sends staffers from its Navigation Advising program to high schools to discuss how to be a college student. These visits aren't about recruitment, but a chance to explain the college application process, financial aid and advising, among other topics.

If the high schoolers happen to become interested in State Fair, so much the better. "We're helping students become college students, and then if they want to talk about State Fair Community College, we'll help them do that," says Joe Gilgour, dean of students and academic support services.

Students who apply are automatically assigned an adviser known as a navigator. This is an administrator--not a faculty member--who provides students with academic support throughout their time at the college.

Navigators are segmented by academic area, both programmatically and physically. They are located not in a centralized advising department, but throughout campus to be near the academic offices of their students' majors. The idea is to embed academic advisors with faculty so students have a seamless advising experience.

"Students walk into an office suite and they don't know who's faculty and who's [an advisor]," Gilgour says. "We like that. We want them to feel like whoever they talk to in that room, they're in good hands."

Navigation Advising is in only its second year, so retention and graduation data are inconclusive. But the navigators' comprehensive outlook can only benefit in the long run, Gilgour says.

"It's from A to Z," he says. "They're helping students from the moment they get through admissions all the way to career placement or transfer to another university."

--Thomas W. Durso


* State Fair leaders would like to expand the number of navigators as enrollment grows.

* The college is investigating customer relationship management software to provide more analytics related to the program.

Miami Dade College

3-Tiered Model of Advising

You can imagine the reaction when Miami Dade College, with its enrollment of 165,000, expanded its academic advising load to incoming students still in high school. That meant staff would need to advise an additional 14,000 students.

"I still remember one of the very first conversations with the student affairs deans," says Lenore Rodicio, provost for academic and student affairs. "I thought we were going to need to do some emergency treatment on some of them."

Miami Dade overhauled advising when focus groups revealed the one-size-fits-all system wasn't meeting students' academic needs. The new, three-tiered model for first-time college students entering directly from high school reflected how circumstances and needs had changed. "There's particular information that's pertinent at different points in time in their pathway here at the institution," Rodicio says.

In Tier 1, pre-college advisors help high school students with admissions, financial aid applications, career exploration and selection of academic program. That advising is followed by orientation sessions and a noncognitive assessment.

Tier 2's first-year advisors work with students until they have earned a quarter of their required credits. Mentors take over in Tier 3, which covers career choices, internship opportunities and workforce readiness skills.

Adding mentoring and coaching to more traditional academic advising should put Miami students in a better position to succeed.

"It's not just about putting the right sequences of courses on paper," Rodicio says. "For community college students especially, this is their last chance for a higher education. We're trying to create some intentional touchpoints along their career that's going to be critical for this population of students to stay on track."



* Miami Dade created a new position, the associate provost for student achievement initiatives, to coordinate collegewide efforts encompassed by the 3-tiered model of advising.

* The student achievement initiative division's goal is to increase completion rates while maintaining access and quality.

University of San Diego

Insight App

For most high schoolers, it's mom or dad nagging them to get to school on time, keep track of assignments and meet assignment deadlines.

For University of San Diego students, it's their phone that keeps them focused.

Administrators saw an opportunity in the overwhelming prevalence of mobile devices on campus to help students become independent.

"We wanted to create something to help empower students to understand and help them with their daily lives," says Avi Badwal, senior director of enterprise technologies.

That something is Insight, an app built on the iOS platform that lets students organize coursework, extracurricular activities and personal tasks. Built specifically for University of San Diego students, Insight auto-creates categories based on class schedules and also has a smart class planner, color-coded workload views and task alerts. Administrators are using Google Analytics to collect data on usage and most popular features, and then correlating that data to academic performance.

The initiative grew out of a recognition that students away from home for the first time face challenges managing their schedule without a parent around to lend a hand, university officials say. They hope to add features to Insight and to create additional apps that improve academic performance.

The goal was to empower students to take more responsibility for their personal experience at the university, says Christopher W. Wessells, vice provost and chief information officer.

"None of that really existed in the marketplace," Badwal says of Insight's features.

And now? Well, there's an app for that.--T.W.D.



University of San Diego students who use Insight


Insight users who have found it extremely valuable


Completed tasks, as of early October, assigned through Insight

Southeast Technical Institute

Academic Recovery Program

The idea was this: Require students who have lost "good standing" status--due to academic hiccups or financial troubles--to pay for...

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