Roadmap to Retention

President Smatresk speaks to students at the 2018 Planning Implementation Workshop

Delivering high-quality academics, useful services and the complete college experience in a seamless and accessible manner are key to student success and satisfaction.

These were the topics of discussion at UNT President Neal Smatresk's annual Planning Implementation Workshop held Aug. 15, 2018, at Apogee Stadium. The 2018 workshop, themed “Roadmap to Retention,” focused on student success - improving retention, eliminating roadblocks and fostering the best possible UNT experience.

“Every student who walks on to our campus comes with hopes, dreams and aspirations. They are looking for an opportunity to better themselves and we have to help them succeed. We must provide the human touch, help them overcome hurdles and connect them to resources so that they do not leave UNT before they are prepared to achieve their dreams,” President Neal Smatresk said.

About 150 university administrators, academic leaders, advisors, staff and students attended the workshop, at which they gained information about UNT resources available that promote student success and began work on unit-centric plans to increase student success.

Jennifer Cowley, provost and vice president for academic affairs, provided examples of how thoughtful evaluation of data by deans and department chairs can prompt changes that ultimately lead to improved learning outcomes.

The College of Business has been retention-focused for about seven years, and Cowley highlighted the Department of Accounting's success in reducing the drop, fail, withdrawal and incomplete rate of students from 65 percent to 34 percent in two years. The college accomplished this through the introduction of supplemental instruction, change in course delivery and the intentional decision to recognize the issue and to look for ways to fix it.

“Each of our departments needs to explore why courses have high DFWI rates and develop an action plan to enhance success in high DFWI courses,” Cowley said. “That could include redesigning the course, using early warning or early intervention tools, developing increased curricular support services, and/or providing supplemental instruction.”

UNT's data landscape has grown rapidly in the past 18 months with the launch of the Insights program and data warehouse, which is available to all full-time faculty and staff through UNT's Office of Data, Analytics and Institutional Research. DAIR staff were on-site during the workshop to aid participants in answering unit-specific questions during table work and planning sessions.

Insights training is available for faculty and staff interested
in joining the 250-plus trained users on campus. Register now.

“Leveraging these analytical products allows our decision makers to connect what we know about our students with our goals for their success. As future analytical products continue to be developed, these capabilities will increase allowing our university to deliver on the promise of a great education,” said Jason Simon, assistant vice president of data, analytics and institutional research.

A table discussion about retention at the 2018 Planning Implementation Workshop

Ensuring student success is not just the work of academic units, but the whole university.

“As an institution, from the gardeners to the president, we need to do things that encourage retention and keep students in school,” said Maureen McGuinness, dean of students.

Shannon Goodman, vice president for enrollment, said retention is built on the power of experience - not just what is done, but how it's done. Rather than focus on what is easiest for UNT faculty and staff, Goodman challenged attendees to focus first on student needs and make sure processes, policies and procedures are free from roadblocks.

“Every one thing that we do - every one interaction we have with a student, every one document, every transcript that we process, everything that we do - has value and has purpose, or it should,” Goodman said. “If an interaction doesn't positively impact the student, we shouldn't be doing it.”

Elizabeth With, vice president for student affairs, presented on six important retention topics crucial for helping student success that originated from “The Coming Disruption in Higher Education” - a presentation by Brandon Busteed, Gallup's executive director of education and workforce development.

  1. Having people on campus who make me excited about learning
  2. Faculty/staff care about me as a person
  3. Having a mentor who encourages my goals and dreams
  4. Involvement in a long-term project taking a semester or more to complete
  5. Access to internships or jobs where applied learning occurs
  6. Involvement in extracurricular activities and organizations

“When students can identify with these six factors, they have a greater likelihood of achieving success as a college student and developing a lifelong affinity that lasts long after graduation,” With said.

Jim Laney, chair of the Department of Teacher Education and Administration, was inspired by the “Busteed Six” and will lead department faculty in an exercise of rephrasing the six factors so it directly relates to their students.

“Since faculty are on the front lines of student interactions - and are the individuals students most often seek relationships and mentorships with - increased faculty engagement is a key to student retention,” said Victor Prybutok, vice provost for graduate education and Toulouse Graduate School dean.

Apogee Stadium's HUB Club hosted the 2018 Planning Implementation Workshop

“We, as faculty, we have to do more than just teach. If you're here just to teach, you're not doing all that well. We're here to transform people's lives - and we have to care. Doing so means reaching out and giving of yourself, taking a little bit of time to get out of your crystal palace and just talk to students. That can make a huge difference,” said Francisco Guzman, associate professor of marketing, logistics and operations management.

Student leaders from a variety of organizations participated in every discussion and Matt Hare, non-traditional student representative for the Division of Student Affairs, said the workshop was informative.

“I really like the sharing of ideas from all areas of academia, and having the students involved has been crucial to a successful process,” Hare said.

A major purpose of the workshop was to familiarize participants with academic and student affairs resources, so that faculty and staff will be better equipped to connect students with programs and services they may need. Representatives from 20 offices and programs shared three-minute TED-style talks to raise awareness. Attendees also received a list of student success resources and information about specific actions taken by the Division of Academic Affairs and Division of Student Affairs during 2017-18.

“I wasn't aware of half the information we've received today regarding Academic Affairs and Student Affairs resources. If I've been here 23 years and didn't know, there's no way our students will know, so we're going to put this information on the College of Science website and make sure our faculty and staff are aware, too,” said John Quintanilla, associate dean of the College of Science.

President Smatresk concluded the workshop by challenging all participants to identify how they personally can foster student success and how the university can move the needle. Each specific unit was charged with developing an action plan moving forward.

Rather than continue to say “I teach two introductory courses that have more than 150 students and I don't have time,” Rebecca Weber said she is committing to reach out to struggling students.

“When students fail tests or don't do as well as they expect, I'm going to reach out, remind them of office hours, supplemental instruction and all of the resources that are available,” said Weber, a lecturer and undergraduate advisor in the Department of Chemistry.

Smatresk empowered attendees to share the information learned with their colleagues and accept personal responsibility for student success.

“The measure of today's effectiveness of the workshop is persistence. Will we be intentional and change our personal approach to students and how we manage education? Will we work hard to think about why we do this and how we care?” Smatresk said.

— Meredith Moriak Wright, University Relations, Communications and Marketing.

2018 State of the University

Attend the 2018 State of the University at 3 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Murchison Performing Arts Center. Doors open at 2:15 p.m.

2018 Planning Workshop Recap
“We change lives one student at a time. It's not that we have 38,000 students — we have 38,000 individuals whose lives we're working to change. When we think of it that way — as 38,000 sets of individual needs — that's never easy to address but it's something we need to work at constantly.”

— Victor Prybutok, vice provost for graduate education and Toulouse Graduate School dean

Students' career goals
“At UNT, our ultimate goal is to prepare our students for a productive future and launch them into the world. Retention is the job of all of us, not just the professors, and to see the people from all across our campus community coming together is inspiring.”

— Brenda McCoy, associate vice president for strategic initiatives and administration

Student fears and anxieties
“My role is to listen and be there for our 1,000-plus students at our campus in Frisco and to help them find their answers and solutions by wearing many hats, instead of passing the buck. When they ask if we can do something, I say ‘Yes!' and then figure out how to provide that assistance.”

— Hope Garcia, director of regional campus student services

Students' families and dreams
“Success on the field or court starts with the student experience. We've really invested in the student experience by increasing the number of resources - advisors, tutors, nutritionists - to help the student's health and safety. We've learned when you invest in people and help them grow as a person, they will perform well.”

— Wren Baker, vice president and director of athletics

Student expectations