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

This past Tuesday we had our annual Student Success Launch with about 300 people joining us in person and online. Christina Bridges led an all-star planning team (thank you!) and built on the great history of the event over the past years. I hope those who attending found it as impactful and inspiring as I did. As I reflected on the event, two themes stuck out to me from what I heard: 1) the need for collaboration and building connections, and 2) questions about how to engage in this work given the impacts of the last few years.

The Student Success Launch started years ago in the NSSC in recognition of the need to bring diverse units together to discuss student success on a campus-wide scale.  I loved seeing that continued collaboration with the opening remarks of Provost Woodruff, Associate Provost Largent, and Senior Vice President Gore. They each spoke about the importance of student success being a collaborative effort that everyone plays a key role in moving forward on campus. As I noted at last year’s Student Success Launch, we can move mountains if we each focus on moving our own boulders in alignment with our colleagues. This need for alignment and collaboration can also be seen by the fact that the student success theme is co-sponsored by both the provost and SVP Gore. While our overall goal of an 86% graduation rate with no gaps might be seen by some as an academic goal, we know that the work we need to do to reach this goal will include not only academic initiatives such as redesigning curriculum structures and courses, but will also need to include non-academic initiatives such as creating a sense of belonging for students through the intentional design of micro-communities where students can find a welcoming and supportive home on our large campus.

This means we need folks from all across campus to come together to engage in student success work. Everyone on campus plays a role in moving our graduation rate forward. I was heartened to once again see such a great turnout at the event from diverse roles and areas on campus.  We had senior leaders and brand-new front-line staff.  We had representatives from every college and major division on campus. We had folks who have attended every Student Success Launch we have ever had, to folks who were attending for the first time. All of these voices and perspectives are important to moving the student success work forward and I look forward to working with each and every one of you as we strive to reach our goals.

As Provost Woodruff noted in her opening remarks, we are still dealing with a lot of change fatigue and need to keep that in the front of our minds as we think about how we will engage in this work. I appreciate the awesome panel further developing this concept and helping us think about how we can move forward with the work we need to do while mindful of our current context and all we have learned over the last few years.  From their reminder to care for ourselves, to their suggestions for how they are rethinking their work to better support students in our current environment, I feel everyone was able to take something away from the perspectives they shared.