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Data champions make a difference in building analytics culture

Inquiring about student scores has led to a college gaining high enrollment retention rates
University Business, June 2017

It’s no coincidence that administrators at the College of Visual and Performing Arts at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro constantly inquire about student scores, and they have one of the highest retention rates on campus.

Bryan Terry, vice chancellor for enrollment management, says other departments have noticed. “Once you have a model, other schools look to see what they are doing right.”

There is always some pushback against a new method of doing things. But letting buy-in happen organically—rather than forcing it with an edict from above—can help.

That’s why Maryville University in St. Louis asked for faculty volunteers to begin using insights from a “college student inventory” survey in which incoming freshman share their concerns, confidence level, and other data points.

“We’re not forcing it upon them,” says Jennifer McCluskey, vice president for student success. “Faculty utilizing the learning diagnostics are so bought in after they use it, they are bringing their colleagues on board.”

For instance, one professor discovered that some incoming biology majors reported a low confidence level in science, and then encouraged those students to meet to go over any confusion prior to the first exam. Similarly, incoming surveys given to freshman education majors revealed anxiety about the financial security of that career choice.

“Usually we don’t talk about that in the first semester, but because the faculty member knew students were concerned, she brought in alumni who talked about their salaries, and why they stay in that career,” says McCluskey.

Although McCluskey says many factors contributed to the school’s student success progress, data has played a big role. In fact, Maryville achieved its highest-ever retention rate in 2016—88 percent.


Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, New York-based writer and frequent contributor to UB.

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