Initiatives to encourage underclassmen to remain Bears
By Sara Tirrito
Two new initiatives to increase student retention are being created in an effort led by the Foster Success Center, but the initiatives will not focus only on freshmen — some will also be geared toward improving the sophomore students’ experience and helping parents encourage their students.
Karen Kemp, assistant vice president of marketing and media communications, has been working with the center to create the initiatives.
Kemp said the first initiative will help address trouble spots during freshman year. There are milestones about every three weeks at which new students might need encouragement or reminders about the resources that are available to them as they try to adjust to college. Self doubt, poor performance in courses or an ill-fitted major can make the first semester difficult, she said.
“We have some great programs and a lot of students take advantage of those programs, but we also have a lot of students who don’t, or who end up switching majors two or three times because they don’t realize that they can go and take advantage of the career counseling, or who maybe don’t go and meet the professors and take advantage of office hours or study groups,” Kemp said. “So we just want to try to continue to help that first-semester freshman experience be as full and successful as possible, sort of as a foundation for moving on from there.”
Brandon Miller, assistant vice president of the Foster Success Center, said retaining students from freshman year through graduation is essential to carrying out the university’s mission.
“We care about your success,” Miller said.
“It’s about keeping you here. We’re not successful as a community and we can’t fulfill the mission of Baylor University unless you are graduating and going out into the world and changing it — we need that.”
The second initiative will focus on contacting students the summer prior to their sophomore year to keep them engaged with the university and remind them that they are valuable to the university.
Often students will spend the summer at home and find reasons not to return to Baylor, whether they’ve reconnected with old friends, abandoned their former major, decided to continue working through the next semester or been told by parents that maybe they aren’t ready for college, Kemp said.
In 2009, second-year retention for first-time freshmen was 81.9 percent. Five-year average retention stands at 84.2 percent.
“We lose on average about 15 percent between the first-year cohort that begins with us and those that return for the sophomore year,” Miller said. “So we’re really wanting to impact that percentage so that we don’t lose that 15 percent.”
The second initiative will focus not only on the students, but their parents as well.
“We were trying to think of what could we do in the summer. Those conversations with parents are hard ones. The reality of ‘Listen, I know since I was 10 years old I planned to be a doctor, but I really don’t like biology,’ that’s got to be a hard conversation to have with your parents,” Kemp said. “So we’re trying to think about what could we share with parents to help them through this summer, to help them through the transition [and encourage their] child to find their calling, because that’s what Baylor’s all about — we’re more about finding your calling than finding your job.”
Miller said he also hopes to find a way to make sophomores feel valued and important when they return to campus.
“We don’t make our sophomores feel special,” Miller said, “so some way to make our returning sophomores feel special would be nice.”
The initiatives are slated for implementation beginning in the summer, Kemp said.