A series of workshops during Fall Conference gave faculty and staff a chance to see the progress Cal Poly Pomona has made in the areas of student success, semester conversion, academic advising and high impact practices.
The forums also gave attendees an opportunity to ask questions and weigh in on how the changes will affect the university’s future.
The Seizing the Opportunity to Improve Student Success session focused on the university’s renewed investment in faculty hiring, the graduation initiative and how to help students achieve.
Provost Sylvia Alva talked about student success as a shared responsibility of faculty and staff. The university is renewing its investment in staffing, welcoming 44 new tenure-track faculty and recruiting for 58 tenure-track positions. Other initiatives underway include enhancing advising for students, using data to drive decision making, and tapping high impact practices to increase student retention rates.
A push to improve the graduation rate also is underway. Professor Teshia Roby, who teaches in the College of Education & Integrative Studies and heads the graduation initiative, shared the results of a survey of 66 students who participated in focus groups during spring quarter 2015. Students cited support programs and online resources as being the most helpful. They listed the Graduate Writing Test (GWT), inconsistent advising, and difficulty in getting needed courses as among the obstacles. The focus group participants called for centralized advising, more easy to use roadmaps to graduation, and consistency in advising.
Kathy Street, acting vice president for the Division of Student Affairs, shared factors that affect the graduation rate including whether someone is a first-generation student. African American and Latino males also were less likely to succeed than their counterparts. Programs such as Summer Bridge and EOP help to increase the chances that a student will be successful, largely because they require a lot of interaction with the participants. Key to student achievement include a visible campus commitment and focus on success, the admission of a diverse pool of students with the ability to succeed, a frequent reference to campus expectations for success, and early intervention.
During the Semester Conversion workshop, participants received an overview of the milestones achieved thus far and next steps as Cal Poly Pomona prepares for conversion in fall 2018. The session was led by Francelina Neto, director of the semester conversion project; Larisa Preiser-Houy, semester conversion curriculum coordination committee co-chair; and Carol Heins-Gonzalez, semester conversion project manager.
Curriculum development is well underway with expanded course outlines submitted and full undergraduate program proposals due on Oct. 9. A sample template will be distributed soon. The team has also identified academic and faculty policies that need to be updated for the semester system.
This summer, the university conducted an assessment of student administration systems including admissions, student records, financial aid, student financials and advising, as well as regulatory reporting and the technical conversion process. The results will be used to design and implement necessary changes.
Preparation for advising began with student focus groups to identify the best way to communicate with them about conversion. The advising sub-committee is in the early stages of developing training for faculty and staff, as well as the tools and resources needed to support robust advising processes.
The connection between advising and student success was emphasized at the Advising Structure and Opportunities workshop. Staff and college advisors also explored potential avenues for more engagement with students.
The session stressed the partnership between students and advisors, who serve as conduits that empower students to take ownership of their education.
Workshop organizers urged attendees to take note of advisement milestones to ensure that students are on track. For example, milestones for juniors include being enrolled in upper-division classes and being prepared to take the Graduation Writing Test.
The session also addressed proactive advising strategies that include focusing on first-generation students, underrepresented minorities, students who have changed their majors more than twice, and students who start in the quarter system but finish during semester conversion.
The High-Impact Practices workshop focused on programs and initiatives that have demonstrated a strong ability to improve student success in the form of increased GPA, higher retention rates and shorter time to graduation. Examples of high-impact practices include capstone projects, service learning, peer mentoring, summer bridge programs and field trips.
The campus has been studying the efficacy of such programs with seed money provided by the CSU Chancellor’s office. Further study will be undertaken to determine whether students should be required to participate in high-impact practices, and which types would be acceptable.
The workshop featured presentations by Claudia Pinter-Lucke, associate provost; Michael Millar, director of the Center for Community Engagement; Lisa Rotunni, executive director of Institutional Research and Academic Resources; and Cecilia Santiago-Gonzalez, director of enrollment and One Stop Services.