“The opportunity gap is a byproduct of structural disadvantage and disregard, not a result of students’ unwillingness to be successful.”
Shaun R. Harper, Closing the Opportunity Gap
I want to thank all of the organizers, attendees, poster presenters, and speakers at last month’s Student Learning and Success Launch. There was a great deal of energy in the room, and I have heard many positive comments about the presentations and posters. It was a wonderful way to start the year.
We used the Student Learning and Success Launch to publicize a document that describes the vision, mission, and values that guide MSU’s work to support and advance our students’ success. The document is the culmination of work over the last six months by the Student Success Steering Committee and the APUE Senior Staff team with input from students, the Neighborhoods Senior Operations team (representing RHS, VPSA, NSSC) and representatives from the colleges. Dr. Renata Opoczynski, our University Innovation Alliance Fellow, drew from all of our constituents and organized their suggestions into the summary of our vision, mission, goals, objectives, and key performance indicators.
MSU’s Student Success Vision/Mission/Values is a working document that bluntly states what we hope to accomplish and how we will pursue that work. It is aspirational; we will sometimes fall short of these goals and sometimes drift away from these values. When we falter, the document is intended to help reorient us and to help us support one another and our students.
Our vision and mission is to collaboratively reshape MSU to create an accessible and equitable undergraduate experience that empowers all students to learn, develop purpose and passion, and grow as individuals to achieve their goals. This requires an ongoing effort of reform to rid MSU of artificial barriers, inequitable policies and practices, and institutional norms that prevent our university from being a truly accessible and inclusive institution. We have become very good at mitigating deleterious effects of problematic policies and attitudes; now we must turn our attention to eliminating the source of these problems by reshaping the institution itself.
At the Student Success Launch, I described some of my concerns about our willingness to move quickly and decisively to reshape MSU to remove the artificial barriers that hinder student learning and success. The last nine months have been especially difficult, and many of us are beginning this academic year feeling injured and chastened by what we finally learned had long been happening on our campus. We are taking our bearings from the courageous survivors who continue to press for real and lasting changes, and we are keeping the lessons of last year directly in front of us. At the same time, many of us feel a significant level of uncertainty in the midst of search for a new president and lingering questions about MSU’s culture and leadership.
Combined, these injuries and uncertainties encourage us to sit back and wait it out.But this is not the time for hesitation. Now is the time for us to be even more bold and even more forthright about the kind of institution we want to lead. Every student we admit to MSU has the capacity to graduate, and we are committed to closing opportunity gaps for underserved students, increasing diversity and inclusion to ensure that all students have equitable experiences, and to increase campus retention and graduation rates and decrease cost and time to degree. As Provost June Youatt directly told us at the Launch, “This is our platform. This is our time. This is our chance.”
Undergraduate Student Learning and Success at Michigan State University
Michigan State University will create an accessible and equitable undergraduate student experience, both inside and outside the classroom, that empowers all students to learn, develop purpose and passion, and grow as individuals to achieve their goals.
Collaboratively re-shape the institution to better support undergraduate student learning and success.
A diverse and inclusive environment that strives for equity and supports students’ identity development, sense of belonging, and exploration of differences.
A focus on student’s mental, physical, and financial well-being with support programs and services that promote safety, a healthy lifestyle and student success.
Broad lifelong learning that includes disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge that fosters growth, an exploration of purpose and engagement in civic and professional settings.
Collaboration and learning with all faculty and instructors, staff, advisors, and administrators on campus as well as our partners in the University Innovation Alliance, Big Ten Academic Alliance, and across higher education broadly, and best practices from the literature in order to promote and improve student learning and success on campus.
Constant improvement and ongoing assessment of our curriculum, programs, courses, processes, and policies in order to develop an environment where students can learn and succeed.
To close opportunity gaps for underserved students (first generation, lower income, Black, Latinx, Native American and/or international students) on campus.
To increase diversity and inclusion on campus to ensure all students have equitable experiences inside and outside of the classroom.
To increase campus retention and graduation rates and decrease cost and time to degree.
Objectives (developed from student success literature and research)
Create an environment where students engage in experiential learning, develop a sense of purpose, and explore career pathways throughout their time at the institution.
Create an inclusive environment by fostering a sense of belonging for all students, removing institutional barriers to learning and success, addressing inequity of access and learning, and supporting engagement across differences.
Engage in ongoing examination of curriculum and individual courses, their role in student learning and success, and their reform in order to improve student learning and success.
Foster students’ self-awareness, and their mental, physical, and financial well-being.
Support students in navigating their degree requirements in a timely manner through advising, ongoing support, and the continual reform of policies, procedures, and practices to support student learning and success.