Utah State University is one of only three campuses to receive an award for its student retention efforts. USU is a recipient of the Lee Noel and Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Award, presented at an enrollment management conference in Washington, D.C.
Joyce Kinkead, vice provost for Undergraduate Studies and Research, and Melissa Miller Kincart, assistant to the vice provost, accepted the award.
Utah State University president Stan Albrecht said Kinkead and Kincart led a systematic, institution-wide approach to student success and retention that targeted recruitment of students and emphasized enrollment management.
"It was not just one thing that they did," Albrecht said. "There were multiple initiatives that they spearheaded in a very short time. We felt we could improve retention over a five-year period, but they were able to move our retention figures up 10 points in just three years. This makes us much more efficient with the public dollars invested in Utah State."
Kincart said that the initiatives included being much more proactive with students. Advisors became more intrusive in helping students plan their degree programs. The university also created a new centralized advising center for students who do not have a declared major. Course clusters and priority registration for new students also simplified the process of enrolling. The university's general catalog was overhauled to include sample four-year degree plans and worksheets.
A new leave of absence policy allows students to keep their records open so they do not have to re-apply when they return. Kincart personally interviews students not returning to Utah State so the university can understand reasons for leaving. Whenever possible, changes were made at the university to improve the experience for undergrads.
"This is really a partnership between academics and student services," said Kinkead. "Together, we redesigned the freshmen transition program, adding peer mentors to each section of the course and establishing a weekly email to let students know what's happening on campus and in the community.
"Of course, the main reason students come to Utah State and remain is due to what happens in the classroom," Kinkead said. "It's really the faculty and the programs that recruit and retain students. Our students tell us that faculty care about them, so many of them have an open door policy and are willing to help."
Interim Provost Noelle Cockett said she appreciates the emphasis on raised expectations and standards of excellence.
"We are definitely being more intentional about our processes so students have clear communication about the rigors of an education at a research university. We are delighted that so many rise to the challenge and persist. This team has managed to convey that while still remaining true to the land-grant mission of access."
Kinkead said a secret weapon the university has to help students in financial difficulty is the Hansen Retention Scholarship, endowed several years ago by Dell Loy and Lynnette Hansen.
"Each year through our proactive tracking, we find students who would not be able to return to the university without some additional financial help," she said. "The Hansen Scholarship has made all the difference in the world to these students."
Albrecht complimented the entire campus community in the retention effort.
"While we had two people accepting this award, they and I acknowledge that this was a whole campus endeavor," he said. "We are all on the same page. When we recruit a student, we want to graduate that student. We are committed to student success."
For more information on the retention program or the award, contact Kinkead through the Provost's office, 435-797-1706.