Graduate Parkside: “Focused on Five”
Five doesn't seem like a very big number. It's not even a half a baker's dozen, but for the Graduate Parkside Title III Grant team, it's a number that has captured their attention.
The goal of Graduate Parkside is to collaborate with other areas of the university to drive higher levels of student retention. How high, you ask? Well, FIVE percent for starters.
"The work we're doing in Graduate Parkside is all about the student with particular focus on helping first-time, first-generation or at-risk students graduate from UW-Parkside," said program director Dr. Cynthia Graham. "We've set the goal of improving our current retention rate by five percent by the time the grant expires in 2014 and we're confident we can make that difference."
In driving toward the five percent goal, Graduate Parkside has identified five areas of concentration to see 34 additional freshman students retained as a result of the interventions they're applying.
The five areas are:
1 Investing in tutoring and supplemental instruction to enable more students, particularly those at risk of D/F/W to persist;
2 Driving confidence in PASS by assessing its use, functionality, impact, and value-add in helping at-risk students with earlier interventions;
3 Partnering with the Advising Center as a hub of student success and funding additional peer advisors to engage with students;
4 Improving communication with students who are on or at risk of academic probation;
5 Identifying what students need to help them feel more connected, engaged, and valued at UW-Parkside.
"So far, we've had early signs of success with supplemental instruction being a key contributor to retention," said Dr. Graham. "Our Title III Grant allowed us to fund an additional 10 supplemental instructors in the fall 2012 semester."
This involvement allowed nearly 100 more students to participate in supplemental instruction and drove the average grade of participants up by .4 percent over the spring 2012 semester. The percent of D/F/W declined from 22.9% in the spring semester to 16.6% in the fall.
"The support we're getting from Graduate Parkside for our supplemental instruction is significantly enabling us to do more," said Amie Shea, Academic Resource Center Coordinator. "We need more run time to truly be able to analyze the impact, but we're encouraged by the early results. We'd love to see a sustainable approach to supplemental instruction even beyond the life of the grant because we feel it really makes a difference for our students."
Graduate Parkside has also enabled the Advising Center to add one peer advisor in the fall with plans to add three more for the fall semester.
"Partnering with Graduate Parkside has been valuable for the Advising and Career Center," said Gwen Jones, Interim Director. "Having a peer advisor to help our students work through the challenges that confront them in their first year makes a difference in the lives of those students."
Jones feels peer advisors are uniquely positioned to help students because they often share similar obstacles.
"They can learn a lot from each other; their shared experiences create a sense of familiarity easing their transition to UW-P and enhancing their engagement and connectedness," Jones said.
Funding from Graduate Parkside has also allowed the Virtual Student Success Center (VSSC) to get off to a running start.
"The VSSC hopes to use social media to fill the gap between the events, groups, and organizations and the students they're trying to reach," said Victor Bridgeman, UW-Parkside alumnus, current graduate student, and director of the VSSC. Since launching the VSSC Facebook page only weeks ago, they have already gathered more than 250 friends and had more than 12,000 page views. The social media channel allows students to get engaged with what's going on around campus in a unique and entertaining way. Join students and colleagues in following the VSSC posts on Facebook.
Helping to further understand what engages students, which is a contributing factor to retention, Graduate Parkside sponsored listening sessions with more than 45 students, faculty, staff, and alumni participants.
"The listening sessions allowed us to gain insights into what students need and want from their experience at UW-Parkside," said Tami Witt, the communications consultant who facilitated the sessions. "We learned a great deal about a lot of things, many of which can be impacted or influenced through the work Graduate Parkside is undertaking."
The listening sessions provided a chance for students to be heard and to share their ideas for what could improve their experience. "We're applying what we heard in the listening sessions throughout the other work we're undertaking," said Dr. Graham. "We recognize we can't take action on everything we heard, but I think giving students the opportunity to be and to feel heard has its own impact on desire to retain."Clearly, Graduate Parkside has a lot going on these days as they continue to focus on FIVE. Ranger Today will feature updates from the Graduate Parkside team as their work progresses.