Retention of college students is a unique challenge for any community college. At WVNCC, we make persistence of our students a top priority to help them achieve their educational goals. We view retention as a college-wide responsibility: faculty, staff, and administration all work to serve students in a way that encourages their success and persistence in coursework. The college has also appointed a Director of "Academic" Student Support Services to focus heavily on retention and student success initiatives and to tie in services (tutoring and support services for disabilities students) that enhance academic support in and out of the classroom. Our goal is to empower students with the tools they need to be successful in navigating their educational experience at Northern.
Retention and Student Success Initiatives
- Retention Strategic Plan. This ambitious plan identifies ten primary goals and multiple subgoals to address over a three year period. The purpose is to identify areas of concern, to revamp policies and practices that impact retention negatively, to implement needed additional services and training that will positively impact retention, and to adopt a culture that values the important of retention, success, and completion.
- Early Alert with GradesFirst. GradesFirst is an automated, web-based retention management system. Northern uses many functions in GradesFirst to connect students to resources and keep them informed of their progress in courses.
- Don't Cancel That Class! This program affords faculty the opportunity to request a workshop or presentation in place of a regular class session when a faculty member is unavailable to teach due to conference attendance, for instance.
- On Track. This newsletter is published twice a semester and provides students valuable information about study skills and related strategies, graduation information, advising, college services, and more.
- Resource Fairs. Considering that college students face many challenges in the modern world, this event is meant to spread awareness among students and connect them to internal and external resources that can assist in their success.
- Total Withdraw Survey. This survey allows WVNCC to collect data about who leaves and why students leave to help us address areas of concern and design preventative strategies.
- Student Success Blog. This blog, like the On Track newsletter, provides weekly advise and information. From test-taking strategies to reminders about upcoming, engaging events, this blog offers students a wealth of guidance and information.
- Financial Literacy and Student Success Class. Originally funded by a WVNCC Foundation Grant and other resources, this class is meant to teach students about basic concepts in financial literacy (i.e., budgeting, student loans, retirement accounts, savings, etc.) and strategies for academic success.
- Peer Mentoring. WVNCC's Peer Mentoring program, piloted for the 2011-2012 school year, recruits current students to serve as mentors to incoming first-time, full-time freshmen. Mentors initiate contact before or early in the semester and provide their students will advise about their student success skills, as well as helpful information about college services and processes.
- Project Graduation. In cooperation with the Records and Registrar Office, this program proposes multiple goals to help students graduate from certificate and degree programs at the school. For instance, students who apply for graduation but who are missing requirements work with the Director of Academic Student Support Services and the Records officer, as well as faculty and others, to graduate in their intended program or in another program in which they may have met all requirements.
- Orientation modules. Research shows that new student orientation is a valuable activity in contributing to student success in college, so student success foci have been incorporated into new student orientation, in cooperation with campus counselors. The presentation "How to Become an Effective Student" teaches students to identify their learning styles, supply needs for starting classes, and the importance of using the syllabus to manage their time and stay on track in their courses.
- Advising. A service that has recently been assigned to the area of retention and student success is advising. According to ACT, advising is one of the top services that impacts student retention. Faculty and staff representatives will be analyzing the meaning of advising at WVNCC, study best practices of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), and consider tools and strategies that can enhance advising services for our students. Faculty advisors can find support for quality advising through the "Advising for Success" series, which includes workshops, roundtables, and presentation on advising strategies and "need to know" info. The Advising website also offers resources, including an electronic advising handbook, for faculty advisors.
- Family and Friends Network. For family and friends of students, individuals can now sign up for the "WVNCC Family and Friends Network." This places those who opt in onto an email list. At least once a month, those on the list receive updates about important events at Northern happening that month or soon thereafter. For instance, family and friends can receive tips that will help their students succeed on midterms and finals, as well as information about financial aid deadlines and registration periods. Information sent to the Network is general information and private student account information will not be sent through this service, which is FERPA compliant.
- Fostering Student Success. This initiative is targeted to help faculty in promoting student success. The Fostering Student Success newsletter is sent to all faculty twice a semester and includes student success tips as well as information about advising, registration, start-of-the-semester information, and more. Furthermore, this initiative seeks to identify other ways to assist faculty, such as through adjunct faculty orientation.
- Other activities include providing Resource Guides for each campus to provide students contact information for services in their regions, small evening events to engage a growing evening student population, Scavenger Hunts to direct students student services offices, registration promotions to current students, studying data of at-risk and IPEDS populations, and more.
Links to Online Resources
This system provides students with time management and easy communication tools to stay in touch with instructors and academic support services staff.
Student Success Blog. Become a follower of this blog for important and regular information from college staff about student success tips, registration, advising, college policies, and more.
Financial Literacy and Student Success wiki. This wiki was used to give students in an orientation course access to all course materials. The site is still available for those looking for helpful information about money management and student success strategies.
Links to Presentations for Student Success
Goal Setting & Time Management. View the information in this presentation to learn and practice the importance of setting short-, intermediate-, and long-term goals and accomplishing those goals with effective time management strategies during your time in school (and thereafter).
Stress Management. This presentation covers everything you need to know about stress to start taking over your life rather than stress taking over you. Learn the definition of stress, the causes of stress, its effects, and behavioral, physical, and cognitive strategies for coping with stress.
Note-taking Tips. Note-taking is a key activity to practice and use in the classroom. All students can benefit from understanding effective note-taking, which includes using active listening skills, adopting a note-taking system that works for the individual and the class, and picking out key verbal and nonverbal cues from instructors to discern which information is the most "noteworthy."
Test-taking Tips. Tests can be just about any student's "scary monster in the closet." However, knowing how to prepare for tests from the first day of class and after can help any student conquer the test beast.
For those wanting to learn more, contact Christina Sullivan, Director/"Academic" Student Support Services, at 304-214-8853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.