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Indiana University East is undertaking a major initiative to ensure the success of its students by putting in place programs and services that will support student persistence toward degree completion in as timely a manner as possible. To manage this initiative, an Office of Retention and First-Year Programs has been created and co-located in the Lobby of Whitewater Hall with a new Student Information Center and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Under the Dean of Students, these offices are working to improve the four-year college experience for all students.
Brett Crowley, director of Retention and First Year Programs, is supervising the implementation of seven retention action plans. The action plans are impacting new students by guiding improvements in the areas of admissions, new student orientation, and freshman seminar. Progress is being made in other targeted areas including advising and academic support services. While complete implementation of the action plans will occur over the next year, most of the plans are now in process.
“The Student Information Center/Office of Retention and First Year Programs helps IU East faculty and staff get connected with our students in many ways. The main goal of our efforts is to ensure our students’ educational needs are met and they have a positive experience. Increasing engagement with students should produce the desired outcome, improved retention,” Crowley reports.
IU East exceeded its projections for student retention in the past year. Overall, the retention of new students from fall 2007 to fall 2008 increased by 2.2 percent. The retention of new IU East students from fall 2007 compared to fall 2008 increased in all three categories: full-time beginners (freshmen) by 2.0 percent, part-time beginners by 4.2 percent, and new transfer students by 1.2 percent.
“While modest by some standards, this improvement is significant in the world of higher education, where the pressures on students, particularly low-income and first-generation students, to stop out of college and take a full-time job or attend to family matters is far greater than the average citizen realizes,” explains Larry Richards, executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at IU East. “We will continue to work to improve student retention and four-year graduation at IU East despite the tremendous obstacles that our students face every day.”
The new class of IU East freshmen is having a much different experience than that of previous incoming students. All freshmen completed an online survey, the College Student Inventory, during the summer new student orientation sessions. Each student meets individually with an advisor to discuss the results of this survey. The survey assists advisors in connecting students with the programs and services that they need. This individual attention to students early in their first semester at IU East is just one of the proactive steps being taken to enhance student success.
Mary Blakefield, associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and dean of students, said the Student Information Center was established after it was clear students didn’t always know where to turn for information. She said the center provides a central location where students can connect with staff to find the answers to their questions and get referrals to other offices. The Student Information Center houses the campus switchboard, and by being co-located with the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Retention and First-Year Programs provides quick access to critical services.
“We have adopted an open door policy aimed at giving our students personal service. This office is the central hub for information and it seems to be serving its purpose,” Blakefield said.