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Models of Excellence: Connecting the dots for student success

Student success has evolved from a concept focused mainly on academics and graduation to a host of other goals
University Business, April 2015
  • Through the Professional Development Institute at University of Baltimore, mentors who are  faculty, staff and alumni are available to support and guide students.
  • Student retention has been a focus at Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York for several years.
  • At Early Alert celebrations, William Rainey Harper College students receive program certificates and can mingle with each other.
  • The goal of SIUE 1st at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville is to help students navigate the college environment and connect with peers and campus assistance.

Today’s approach to the complex challenge of ensuring students and graduates are successful is captured by this simple Helen Keller quote: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

The idea of student success has evolved in higher ed, from a concept focused mainly on academic success and graduation rates to one addressing a host of other goals. Campus administrators are working to help students immerse themselves successfully in campus life, manage finances, attain life skills, pursue first jobs and launch fulfilling careers. And officials are doing it all by creating connections across departments, as well as among students.

These collaborations are at the heart of UB’s new Models of Excellence program. We’re honoring higher ed institutions with innovative and collaborative student success initiatives that are having a deep impact on student and graduate outcomes.

The programs have broken down silos on campus. For example, one institution is helping students overcome academic, financial, interpersonal or emotional barriers. Its initiative was developed with input from a number of academic and administrative departments, including the Department of English, the Counseling Center, and the housing and financial aid offices, as well as educators who run a first-year seminar course.

Another honoree’s success program involves representatives of student advising, student support, student living, and student leadership meeting weekly to review the program. They analyze data to judge overall effectiveness and to track individual students.

One community college honoree is strengthening connections between students and staff. Low-achieving students were invited to a lunch where administrators who overcame many of the same obstacles shared their stories.

Peer mentors are included in many student success initiatives, as well. At one university, student mentors connect regularly with first-generation peers to provide guidance and to keep them motivated. The mentors also proctor required weekly study hours. Another university’s student “GURUs” play the roles of tutor, resident advisor and even campus concierge.

Promoting success is also about getting students to move seamlessly from one life stage to another. An honoree’s one-credit, first-semester course covers “soft skills” topics such as time management, diversity, teamwork, work ethic and career readiness—so students can not only win jobs but also become valued colleagues.

The ability to develop and communicate one’s personal brand throughout a career is a key to success, as well. This is a priority in one institution’s approach to student career preparation. Strengthening financial know-how is animportant piece of many success initiatives, too.

Our 10 inaugural Models of Excellence honorees connect various groups on campus and have demonstrated creativity in their approaches to student success. You can read the honorees' stories, and apply for a future round of Models of Excellence, here

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