By Jeff Murphy, July 27, 2018
WARRENSBURG, MO – For many students, particularly those who are the first in their
family to blaze the higher education trail, college can be an intimidating experience.
From enrolling in the right courses to understanding how financial aid works, students
may have lots of questions but don’t always know where to go to find the answers.
Part of a transformative new model designed to help enhance student retention, the University of Central Missouri is establishing the new Success Advising Center to take a holistic and centralized approach to ensuring students get information and assistance they need to stay on track for timely graduation. Work is progressing this summer on this facility. It opens in September in renovated space on the lower level of the Elliott Student Union.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to engage with our students in a very meaningful way with the new Success Advising Center,” said Mike Godard, interim provost-chief learning officer. “We are confident that this intentional and holistic approach will lead to an increase in the number of our students who re-enroll year over year and complete their degrees in four years or less. UCM will continue to be laser focused on ensuring that all of our students are successful and that we meet each individual student need each and every day.”
“The advantage for students is that they truly will have a one-stop place with comprehensive services,” added Karen Goos, interim vice provost for enrollment management.
She noted that the facility is designed to make it easier for students to navigate through the education process by having a dedicated team of professionals ready to answer a wide range of questions. This initiative includes the transfer of all academic success advisors from various college offices throughout campus to a central, highly visible and accessible location. These individuals will not only be well informed about curriculum and paths students can take to earn a degree, but each also has undergone professional development training to expand the breadth of their knowledge into a wide variety of areas that will enable them to better serve students.
Leadership is provided by Ken Schueller, who was recently named Director of Academic Student Success. He oversees the success advising team that includes three senior advisors, two of whom have received prestigious national recognition in their field, along with 21 academic success advisors. Each will be assigned students by majors within the new school structure. The advising team also will have a certified career counselor who specializes in the Open Options Program and will assist with athletic-specific eligibility needs.
“Additionally, we’re going to have peer success coaches. They are academic success coaches who are current students, and will help provide success coaching, assistance with time management, and assistance as academic alerts come through,” Goos said. She added that UCM has tools that help monitor students’ progress and will help staff at the Success Advising Center know if a student potentially needs assistance.
While the Success Advising Center is beneficial to all UCM students, it is designed to help meet students where they are in their education so that assistance is provided according to need. A first-time freshman, for example, will likely need more assistance than an upper-class student. Under this model, when students reach their senior year, they will begin working with faculty mentors who will help them navigate through the remaining year of their four-year degree. This makes it possible to reduce each advisor’s caseload in order to devote the most attention to those who are in greatest need for services.
Goos said the Success Advising Center will help the university reach its goal to retain up to 80 percent of its students who will go on to degree completion. The center’s staff benefit from data that was part of a pilot study conducted under Schueller’s leadership a year ago as Director of the Gateway Advising and Major Exploration Center showing the value of early and more frequent engagement with students. Efforts by UCM led to a 7 percent increase in persistence among first-time freshmen and 13 percent increase among transfers from fall to spring.
“With this new plan, we are building in very intentional – almost seven to eight – outreaches the first semester from success advisors to our first-time freshmen to make sure they have the answers they need in real time as they progress through the semester. We will build those relationships from day one,” Goos said.
With nearly 50 percent of UCM’s incoming freshmen being first-generation students, she pointed out there can be apprehension among students about asking for help, or simply not knowing who to ask. The staff at the Success Advising Center wants to remove the fear factor.
“It you’re a student and you have a question, all you have to do is walk into the Union to the Success Advising Center ask your question, and those fully trained success advisors are going to be able to help you navigate and persist through your college experience,” Goos said.
She added that the facility will include staff offices, private student rooms where they can meet with success coaches, and self-service stations where students can utilize a computer, if needed. The Success Advising Center also is the first place to go to learn more about the new KC Scholars program, Cezar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr. scholarships, and many other opportunities to help students achieve their education goals.
More information about the new facility will be shared during a grand opening being planned for this fall. A date for the event will be announced in the near future.