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Student retention plays a significant role in UCCS growth plans and is crucial during current budget circumstances, according to guest speakers at the Sept. 11 Faculty Assembly meeting.
Barbara Gaddis, director, Office of Student Retention and First Year Experience, Carmen Abeyta, director of inclusive student and community engagement, Office of Multicultural Affairs and Student Outreach, and Brad Bayer, executive director, Office of Student Life and Leadership, spoke to the group, providing faculty with ideas for increasing student retention and emphasizing how each faculty member can make a difference.
Showing attention in various ways, inside and outside the classroom, is key, Gaddis said. Learning names, communicating expectations, and being aware of and guiding students having difficulties, are standard teaching practices that impact student success and influence whether a student remains enrolled. But mentoring, advising and even socializing with students are other ways faculty can boost student interest, confidence and continuing success at UCCS, she said.
Gaddis noted the growing student population is most evident in the classroom where faculty can engage part-time, working, and commuter students as well as those residing on campus. She emphasized that most faculty are already practicing what needs to be done but must now be aware that such strategies also stand within the context of retention. She urged faculty attending the meeting to share salient points of the presentation with their peers and individual departments in hopes of making a more cohesive, successful retention effort.
Bayer continued the request for faculty involvement as he revealed that Student Life oversees some 150 registered clubs and organizations that welcome interested faculty and staff as advisors. The quality of the student experience as well as the continuity and sustainability of the clubs can improve substantially, he said, when faculty lend a hand.
He described involved students as those who devote time and energy to academics and participates in campus clubs, activities, and events. Bayer indicated that involved students tend to earn his or her degree.
Abeyta discussed her experience with a specific program, the National Society for Leadership and Success. An organization for high-achieving students who further develop leadership practices outside the classroom, the society seeks candidates, Abeyta said. Faculty aware of the organization can inform students of its benefits and can share their own goal-setting and networking ideas as advisors, she said.
In the discussion that followed, Assembly President Andrew Czaplewski remarked that from a business perspective, it usually costs more to get new customers than to keep an existing one. He said he recognized that "students are much more than just customers," but considered the principle to be the same and urged faculty to build on existing practices that impact retention.
Don Morley, professor, Communication, asked if any research was conducted asking former students why they left UCCS. Gaddis replied she wasn't aware of any such specific research but that recent attrition trends seemed to be based on the economy and a need many students felt to be closer to home during trying times.
Other suggestions during included faculty urging undecided students to choose a major, presenting multi-year teaching plans and making students more familiar with upper-division classes and expectations.
Czaplewski urged all faculty to make retention a priority, to take what they learned at the meeting to their respective departments, and discuss the issue and related ideas with other faculty.
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