By: 
Thomas W. Durso
Honoree: 
Christopher Newport University

Jeannine Leger, director of academic support services at Christopher Newport in Newport News, Virginia, has a concise description of who has a vested interest in college students’ success: “Everybody at the institution.”

That mindset helps to explain the breadth of departments contributing to the university’s decade-long retention program, Captains Anchored for Success.

The Center for Academic Success, faculty, the registrar, and representatives from admissions, financial aid, career planning, student affairs, orientation programs, student information systems, student engagement, athletics and residential life all play a role—as do the president and provost.

“You’ve got everybody who’s key at the table,” Leger says.

Captains Anchored for Success has developed an impressive variety of retention programs. These include thematic learning communities that house like-minded students near each other and place them in the same classes as freshmena highly specialized advising and technology-backed early warning systems.

The Center for Academic Success, meanwhile, offers peer tutoring, writing assistance, success coaching, study groups, skills workshops and academic recovery programs.

“We have subject-matter experts as resources,” says Lisa Duncan Raines, vice provost for enrollment services and student success. “We have a group that are the best in their field, and they contribute to that campuswide process.”

Among the innovative implementations is the Recruit Back initiative, in which recent graduates on one-year fellowships compile data on students who have left the university and reach out to them with customized messaging in hopes of convincing them to return.

“We might be a public institution, but for most people it reminds them of a private institution,” Leger says. “It’s very personal.”

Success data point

  • 87.5%: First-year students who return for their next year of classes, an increase of more than 12 percentage points from a decade ago