by Renata Opoczynski, Assistant Dean for Student Success Assessment and Strategic Initiatives

Almost a year ago, MSU’s strategic plan was released.  Like many of you, I was thrilled to see Student Success as the first theme listed. I was eager to jump in and get started making big campus changes to improve the experience for our current and future students. The plan laid out an ambitious goal of an 86% graduation rate with no opportunity gaps, but also (much to my excitement) talked about making sure we were supporting all students, including those who may not be counted in our official 6-year graduation metric. The Campus Student Success Group (CSSG) brainstormed initiatives to focus on, we started drafting plans, we dreamt and operationalized, we had ambitious workplans and were ready to dive in and make changes.

But then we recognized the sheer exhaustion and change fatigue everyone was still facing from remote work, decreased staff, and COVID. We thought intentionally about how we would move forward. We limited our efforts to projects that specifically focused on the needs of our students in the moment, like (Re)orientation, student communication, and engaging faculty in student success work. I am proud of what we accomplished over the last two years to continue to move student success forward. Furthermore, I am especially grateful to the committee members and leads of the workgroups who continued to move our aspirations forward despite the challenges we were all facing at the time.

But now, after two and a half years of paused and slowed strategic initiatives, we are ready to dive fully back into the work and tackle many of the large-scale change initiatives needed to ensure we remain a highly accessible institution with the structures in place to ensure all students can learn, thrive, and graduate. I am pumped! The ideas generated at the different strategic planning summits/workshops have been tremendous and inspired me to think in different ways. We dived back in and started brainstorming, planning, listening, dreaming and operationalizing again! We have been fortunate to also have gotten an infusion of resources into our work. From donor funding for First Gen work, foundation funding through the UIA, NSF grants received, and millions of dollars from the provost for our advising work, we have significant resources to make a difference for our students.

We spent this summer thinking about what projects can make the greatest impact for our students and how can we best achieve the goals of those projects. We learned a lot through the pandemic, and I didn’t want to just go back to the old way of doing things. We are intentionally designing the projects to meet the needs of our students, faculty, and staff while being mindful of the the environment we currently work in.

You already know one of our strategic initiatives — the University Advising Initiative that launched this summer. Over the next couple of months, we will launch several more, including other multiyear initiatives similar to the advising initiative, as well as several shorter one-year workgroups with more narrow scope and scale.  We look forward to sharing more about these projects at this year’s Student Success Launch on September 27th (register here) and in this newsletter. As always, we welcome folks who want to be a part of any of these groups to reach out and let us know!