By Jija Dutt
As of summer 2013, Ohio Wesleyan has developed a new initiative of Student Success Guides to improve student retention and graduation rates.
University President Rock Jones said the program was created to see if “through more personal attention we might help students engage more fully on campus and experience greater rates of success at OWU.” The Martin Eisenberg, dean of academic affairs, and Kimberlie Goldsberry, Dean of Students, oversee the program.
The role of the Student Success Guides is to be available as resources for the students and guide them to become more engaged on campus, help them find various forms of support and assist them in developing plans that will help meet their objectives and achieve success.
Currently there are three Student Success Guides on campus: assistant chaplain, Lisa Ho, part-time instructor of speech, Eric Gnezda, and career counselor Amanda Stewart.
“They were chosen because of their strong working relationships with students and their particular interest in this issue,” Jones said.
Ho said the average retention rate in the last five years is 82 percent and the graduation rate, which is the number of students who come in as freshman and stay on till they graduate four years later, was the highest in 2009 at 71 percent.
She said her role as a Student Success Guide is to see the “numbers get better.”
The students in the program are pre-identified by the admissions office as those who might need extra help. They receive an email about the program and it’s up to them if they get back to the guides as wanting the help that is offered to them.
So far, Ho said they have had about a 50 percent response rate from the 137 students who were identified. She said these students range from those who have basic problems with studying skills, to accessing books and requiring financial aid. The majority of the students, she said, have time management problems.
She said her goal as a guide would be to see the program open up more, have more staff involved in it and to develop a peer-mentoring program in which upperclassman who have gone through the program can mentor underclassman enrolled in it.
“(That way) both have an incentive to stay back,” she said.
Her formula for the program is to connect “people with passion.” The biggest achievement as a guide, she said, will be “standing in 2017 in Phillips and watching the freshmen graduate—see the students thrive.”
Ho said she is honored to be a part of the program, and is excited to see where it goes.
Craig Ullom, vice president for Student Affairs, said he thinks programs like Student Success Guides “are great partnerships with students to promote and support their continued success at OWU.”
Jones said he is “very interested” in seeing students succeed in all facets of their university experience.
“I hope this program will provide an additional resource toward those objectives and that one measure of success will be improved retention and graduation rates,” he said.