A President's Reflections

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Posted on January 6, 2010

Today I shifted my focus to retention and attended an excellent session  by John Braxton, a Professor of Education in the Higher Education Leadership Program at Vanderbilt.  We saw backsliding on our UG Day retention this year and a renewed focus on retention/re-admission in COCE, so this session had particular relevance.

Highlights of his talk:

1. He argued for a culture of “enforced student success.”  The idea is to treat ALL students as if they are at risk. 

2. He talked about clerical and front line workers as the “anonymous agents of retention,” too much neglected in institutional retention efforts.

3. Talked about how if students perceive an institutional commitment to their success, they will be more likely to stay on. 

4. There was some discussion on the need for policies and procedures to be congruent and aligned with student success goals — called it integrity and said too many institutions talk about success, but then force their students to live with policies and procedures that send the opposite message.

An underlying theme was the idea of student success being a cultural value across the institution.

Other panelists talked about identifying those employees who job is directly tied to student success and those indirectly tied and making sure evaluation is reflective of these responsibilities. 

An interesting side note: the presidents of Franklin Pierce and Leslie University were also in attendance.  As someone said, even a 5% improvement in retention can make a big difference in the budget.  It would have been huge for us this year.

Ran into David Warren, Presaident of NAICU, who said SNHU comes up all the time in discussions of innovation.

Attended a terrific plenary talk by Serge Schemann, editorial page editor for The International Herald Tribune (owned by the NY Times).  He was discussing America’s place on the world stage and was really quite inspiring, clearheaded about our missteps (and even misdeeds), but reminding everyone that the idea and ideals of America inspired and continue to inspire people around the globe.  It was a delight to hear such a masterfully crafted speech — full of big ideas, a broad perspective, and yet personal and warm and wise. 

The NY Times is doing some very interesting things in higher education now and has created  (or acquired really) an online course delivery platform.  They are going to come up to present to COCE and other interested faculty and staff as some point in the near future.

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