The University has significant processes and services in place campus-wide to encourage retention. Academic departments have faculty and staff advisers, learning centers and tutors, and orientation programs and courses (see Chapter 3). Student Affairs and Educational Opportunity have 20 experienced and qualified staff members who provide services and programs to assist students in their personal and professional development. In 1996, a Director of New Student Orientation and First Year Programs (Student Affairs) was hired. A new position, the Associate Director of Residence Life, was created and filled in 1995 and works cooperatively with Student Affairs to provide developmental programming in the residence halls. Benchmarking indicates that Michigan Techs programming to encourage retention is comparable and in some cases more extensive than peer institutions [6.2B2, Chart 7].
In 1992, the PCW and the PCD (Presidential Commission on Diversity) were formed to respond to concerns associated with the recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented groups and to identify strategies to improve the climate for all students. To develop an overall, unified approach to retention, in 1995 the University created a Rentention Task Force. Following a recommendation of the Rentention Task Force, Educational Opportunity will regularly distribute an analysis of retention and graduation rates. A Standing Committee on Retention will be established in 1997/98.
Financial resources to expand retention efforts are limited and often provided by external grants, such as the Michigan Department of Educations Select Student Support Services Project grant to support our RISE (Retention Initiative in Science and Engineering) programs.
Resources dedicated to retention have allowed us to achieve retention rates comparable to our benchmark and other nationally recognized peer institutions (see Table 10).
TABLE 10. Graduation Rate and Relative Retention Index for Benchmark Institutions.
Source: 1994 AASCU/Sallie Mae Retention Survey Institutional Report
The ambitious goals set by the Retention Task Force95% retention after the first year, 90% after the second, and 85% graduating after five years [5.4A]have not been met, but show our strong commitment to retention, as do the activities and programs aimed at retention which we support.
The Retention Task Force Report [5.4A] describes the activities and programs that are positively impacting retention progress on our campus and offers a framework for addressing retention. The accomplishments in curriculum and academic support systems and programs discussed in Chapter 3 all impact retention, and the role of faculty interaction with students must be emphasized. This is particularly true for retention of women and underrepresented groups. In 1992, the Multicultural Advisory Committee recommended the Efficacy seminars for faculty, to identify early signs of academic difficulty for "at risk" students (see Chapter 3). The PCW Climate Study identified a need for more visiting and permanent faculty role models for women and underrepresented groups. More women and underrepresented faculty have been hired (see Chapter 1, Response to Concern 2; and Chapter 6), and, in addition, a Visiting Women and Minority Scholars Program and the Visiting Women Lecturers Series were established in 1996.
The Multicultural Advisory Committee also recommended more quality "peer support" programs. Students have been significantly involved in a variety of efforts to generate peer support:
Students are also involved in efficacy work through The Guaranteed 4.0 Workshop, which is offered regularly for student groups and was funded through a grant.
As discussed in Chapter 1, Response to Concern 5, we have explored developing a First Year program. A serious step in this direction was taken in June, 1997, when Educational Opportunity and the PAL sponsored a well-attended workshop on "Designing Successful Transitions" conducted by the National Research Center for the Freshman Year Experience and Students in Transition located at the University of South Carolina.
In 1994 the PCW completed a Climate Study, which made recommendations that impact the Universitys recruitment and retention strategies [5.5C]. An overall campus climate of satisfaction which contributes to retention is evidenced by the positive results of the Student Affairs Student Satisfaction Survey [2.6H11], the willingness of students to work on recruitment activities, the willingness of alumni to support the University, and the small number of concerns raised by the PCW and PCD [5.5C, 2.6H2]. The Parade of Nations, Multiethnic Celebration, and Human Relations Series during fall term are activities which contribute to a positive climate for international and underrepresented students, as do new activities in the local schools, periodic workshops, cultural activities and events such as the 1996 and 1997 Pow-Wows. The retention rates for underrepresented students varies by group, but four-year retention varied from 10%20% and is lower than the rate for all students. Although it does not meet University goals for all students, it is comparable or better than our benchmark institutions.
It appears that sufficient resources will be available to maintain the Universitys current retention efforts. It is uncertain if additional resources will be available to support enhancement of current efforts or new initiatives recommended by the Retention Task Force, because much of the current effort has been externally funded.
Retention and graduation rates have always been available through Institutional Analysis and are often required for State and Federal reports. However, they have not been regularly distributed and reviewed, particularly at the department level, for planning purposes. Educational Opportunity will work with Institutional Analysis to collect and distribute the data and the new Standing Committee on Retention will track progress. Established retention processes are also amenable to review and planning. The Retention Task Force has already identified areas for improvement and recommends periodic review and evaluation. The Standing Committee will work to increase awareness of "best practice," and provide ongoing recommendations to senior administrators to meet our retention goals. Educational Opportunity's programming review for underrepresented groups will be completed during 1997/98.
The Retention Task Force Report [5.5A] emphasized that the well-established Learning Centers, the Universitys annual schedule of diversity-related programs, and the variety of opportunities for students to engage in leadership, team, and research activities all enrich educational experiences and positively impact retention. These programs help students develop a connection to Michigan Tech, which is a significant component of our retention strategy. The Retention Task Force also identified six areas that would have an immediate, positive impact on retention:
The first five areas were discussed in Chapter 3, and retention programming has been discussed here. The Executive Vice President and Provost has requested that each academic department incorporate Retention Task Force recommendations into their strategic planning. These are not yet consistent across campus. However, the Colleges of Engineering and Sciences and Arts have committees exploring first-year experience initiatives for possible future implementation, and the New Student Orientation and First Year Programs Director has a broad-based committee which is also exploring opportunities.
New opportunities for role models will be provided by the Presidential Council of Alumnae and efforts to recruit women and underrepresented faculty will be continued. For our underrepresented students, a faculty and staff who look like them is especially important and impacts their ability to adjust to Michigan Tech.
University publications such as the Student Handbook [1.2C] and Commitment to Diversity brochure [7.5B] accurately identify resources available to students which improve their opportunity to succeed, and thereby enhance retention. The University vision is, generally, accurately portrayed in official and marketing publications. However, a few areas, which may affect retention, where our publications do not always match student experience are:
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