In my last blog post, I outlined some of the ways we are focusing on student retention, including our efforts to provide early connections, specialized support and a robust campus life. Here are some other attributes that contribute to student retention.
Hands-on learning and research sets SIU apart
One of our defining features as a major research institution is access to hands-on experiences for all of our students, starting in their freshman year. Our undergraduate students have the opportunity to participate in faculty creative activity and research projects or conduct original research of their own.
In addition, our programs offer practical experience relevant to their students’ career goals.
Students in the theater program, for example, participate in full-scale productions starting their freshman year, whether they are performing or working behind the scenes. Students in our science degree programs have access to state-of-the-art laboratory spaces. Our Transportation Education Center ensures that students in our renowned automotive and aviation programs have hands-on learning that is crucial to careers in transportation. The list goes on.
In addition, each of our colleges assist its students in finding internships and externships so that our graduates have the real-world experience that sets them apart in the job market.
These experiences, along with numerous workshops and career and resource fairs hosted by the Career Development Center throughout the year, help connect our students with alumni and professionals who can serve as mentors and help students navigate their early careers.
These experiences all keep students at SIU by helping them not only feel confident that they are learning the right skills, but ensuring that they are connected to the SIU community. That connection is what transforms college into home.
Hiring the right people
Academic advisors are often a student’s first and most important contact with their program. These professionals ensure students are taking all of their required courses in the correct order and help navigate hurtles to graduating on time. When they are short-staffed, the students suffer.
Over the last year, we have worked to ensure every college has the academic advisors it needs to ensure student success. We filled leadership roles within academic advising that have been vacant, and we are working to fill any new vacancies as they come up.
Recruitment and retention coordinators in each of the colleges ensure that students are connected to all the resources the college and university offers.
And, in addition to hiring strong support staff, we focus on hiring faculty members who are active researchers and who provide quality coursework that is up-to-date with the latest subject knowledge.
Professors who teach core classes to first-year students are provided with additional training on problems often faced by students who may never have been away from home before or taken a college class.
A culture of support
All of our recruitment and retention initiatives revolve around a common theme — listening to our students and responding to their needs. Remember my motto: “It’s personal.” We are all here to serve our students.
Many new initiatives are aimed at ensuring that student feedback is heard and acted upon in an appropriate manner. Something as simple as ensuring instructors get grades in on time can make a huge difference in the student experience.
We expect our faculty and staff to take a personal interest in the students they support, to understand their individual goals, challenges and needs, and to help them connect with the many resources available to them. The personal touch is crucial for our students to succeed.
This culture of listening and responding goes all the way to the top. I love to hear feedback from students, and our provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, Meera Komarraju, is actively seeking new ideas and suggestions. She can be reached at email@example.com. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.