Most high-performing educational institutions in the country find ways for students to regularly engage faculty and staff in meaningful ways outside the classroom.
The Chancellor’s Office of the California State University has taken the leadership in identifying institutional factors that contribute to student success. During the past year, the CSU launched a systemwide study to review institutional programs and practices that have enhanced both graduation and retention rates at the various CSU campuses. To broaden the scope of the study, each university was asked to determine for itself the services and programs that had the greatest impact on a student’s ability to complete his or her program of study in a timely manner.
As a result of campus student success initiatives, graduation rates improved significantly for the freshman cohort that entered CSULB in 2000 when compared to the 1996 cohort. Students (from left) are Ashley Stanton, Oak Mahavan, Melissa Duque, Ryan Barber and Nadine Henley.
As one might imagine, freshman and transfer orientation programs, academic advising and programs aimed at developing a positive first-year experience were all common practices and were reported by each of the 23 CSU campuses. This finding is not surprising since assessment data has long suggested that the availability of quality academic advising services and well designed first-year experience programs, including orientation, tend to have a highly positive correlation to student retention and improved graduation rates. High-achieving institutions, however, including many within the CSU, typically offer a range of additional support programs and services that also correlate highly when the focus is clearly on student success; and these innovative programs have piqued the interest of the system’s Chancellor and Board of Trustees.
At CSULB, student success initiatives have been in place for a number of years, occur at many levels within the university and cross divisional lines. In many instances, faculty and staff work collaboratively to plan and implement services and programs that connect students to the internal fabric of the university. These programs usually share another important characteristic that at first glance may be overlooked—they tend to feature opportunities for students to regularly engage faculty and staff in meaningful ways outside the classroom. As a result, the concept of “student engagement” emerges as an important element in the student success equation.
For example, the Partners for Success Faculty Mentoring program is jointly administered by the divisions of Student Services and Academic Affairs, while the highly successful Faculty in Residence program is housed within the university’s Housing and Residential Life unit. Both of these programs place students in regular, direct contact with faculty and staff advisors while providing a sense of belonging for those students who may otherwise feel isolated and alone. The Partners for Success program matches first-generation college students and faculty in a one-on-one mentoring relationship. Thus far, the results have been excellent. The faculty participants in the Faculty in Residence Program actually live among students in the residence halls where they provide tutoring and advising services for residence halls students who are in need of extra help in mathematics, English, statistics, geography, biological science, history, family and consumer sciences, and engineering.
While the primary relationship between faculty and students takes place in the classroom on any college campus, most high-performing higher education institutions in the country, including elite Ivy League institutions, find ways for students to engage faculty and staff in meaningful ways outside of the classroom. At CSU Long Beach, a commitment to programs that retain and graduate students in a timely manner will continue to influence internal decision-making processes and will remain at the core of student success initiatives embraced by the campus community.