Task force prepares for the future

Student Success Integration Task Force looks to improve student retention

Comprised of faculty and administration in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Student Success Integration Task Force was formed earlier this year as a way to increase the first-year retention rate from 86% to 90%.

The College of Arts and Sciences kicked off their public efforts to boost student retention by hosting an open house session last Wednesday to discuss the findings of the Student Success Integration Task Force.

The task force is spearheaded by Enrollment Manager Kelly Pokrywka, Chief Student Affairs Officer David Johnson and College of Arts and Science Dean David Mengel.

The event on Feb. 5 invited both students and faculty to provide anonymous feedback on the task force’s proposed ideas.

All of the recommendations are initiatives geared toward improving student retention, with a focus on the first-year experience.

The current Xavier retention rate sits at 84%, which is still 16% higher than the national average of 68%. The goal of the task force is to improve the first-year retention rate to 90%.

“We know that little is as important as the first year and even the first semester,” Johnson said. “It’s during that time that students get traction. When they get that traction, it only makes sense that students can get more out of their experience.”

Johnson went on to say that a thriving student is one who makes contributions to the community and can take their acquired knowledge with them into their future.

Out of a desire to create thriving students, the task force has identified four key factors and six areas of strategic focus that they will target in their initiative.

The factors include student characteristics, social integration, academic integration and institutional factors. The strategic focuses include finance, community, first-year experience, support services, academic planning and parents.  

Sophomore Philosophy, Politics and the Public major and Brockman resident assistant (RA) Andrew Geraghty, attended the open house and had positive things to say about the event.

“A lot of the initiatives seemed interesting,” Geraghty said. “(The task force) showed that they cared about listening to students and addressing problems moving forward.”

However, Geraghty also expressed reservations about a proposed plan to get parents more involved in the first-year experience.

“I think it would go too far,” Geraghty said. “Residents are trying to become more independent as they get to campus. More parental involvement would detract from the college experience.”

In order to effectively increase retention, the task force is attempting to create a timeline of first-year student journeys and engage with students the summer before they arrive at Xavier.

“How we manage financial aid and engage families are two examples,” Johnson said. “By starting our work with students before they’re even on campus, we can improve the chances they have a really successful and exciting time on campus.”

Out of the nine ideas they currently are circulating, the task force plans to hone in on two to four of these initiatives to prioritize by April.

The university will then implement these initiatives in May so they can be in effect for the class of 2024.

“The next step would be to work closely with students to help inform those projects,” Johnson said. “I expect more opportunities to help contribute to the work of the two to four that will be carried over into next year.”

The task force will soon begin working with key student organizations involved in the first-year experience, such as the Resident Student Association, Student Government Association and the Student Leadership Advisory Board.