Forum offers important insight on RU's retention initiatives


Coordinator of Retention Steve Lerch presents at the All-Campus Forum on Student Retention in the Hurlburt Student Center Auditorium.

The Radford University campus community joined in a collaborative effort on Oct. 6 to discuss a topic important to student and academic success.

The All-Campus Forum on Student Retention, conducted by New Student Programs staff, provided a comprehensive overview of the importance of retention and what initiatives have been implemented to engage and retain RU's students.

In his opening remarks, Provost Sam Minner stressed the significance of supporting students throughout their entire academic journey.

"We should be doing everything possible within standards of quality to graduate all of our students and launch them into good careers, and, more critically, into lives of high purpose and meaning," Minner said. "We want to get students glued to this place, so that Radford University is home for them," he added.

Retention Coordinator Steve Lerch presented an analysis of RU retention and degree completion data.

He spoke on the university's partnership with the higher education consulting firm Noel-Levitz to research RU's retention at critical points in the undergraduate experience and review factors that contribute to increased retention, satisfaction and degree completion by students. Dave Trites, representing Noel-Levitz, stressed to the audience that it is critical to connect with students.


Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Irvin Clark speaks at the All-Campus Forum on Student Retention in the Hurlburt Student Center Auditorium.

"What we can do early on is more important that we do later on," Trites continued.

New Student Programs Director Mike Dunn and Assistant Director Brianna Ruggles spoke to the retention initiatives already in progress at RU that are working toward the goal of identifying students who need supplemental guidance and support, particularly early in their college academic careers.

For example, Dunn presented data that indicated that first-semester students who chose to enroll in University 150 - a course for academically at-risk students – were more likely to return to RU the next semester than leave the university.

"This course can help students reclaim their academic careers and uncover their potential," Dunn said.

Dunn also reiterated a common theme touched upon during the discussion - that retention requires working with students, "not lowering our academic standards," he said.

One of RU's newest initiatives to raise such standards is the Biology Connections residential learning community.

The community consists of about 20 first-year biology students who are living in the same residence hall and taking two courses together. Such co-curricular initiatives, Ruggles said, are helping students feel a connection to the university.  

Dean of Students Irvin Clark talked about how the Student Affairs department is actively involved in engaging students, in and outside of the classroom. He cited the BE S.E.E.N. programs, the new Student Recreation and Wellness Center and Radford Student Programs & Campus Events (R-SPACE).

"These are initiatives we know are having a positive on our students," Clark said. "Through such offerings, they are becoming involved and invested in the RU community. We are willing partners, and we definitely want to contribute to the goal of retaining every student."

To review the slideshow featured at the All-Campus Forum on Student Retention, visit the new student programs website.

Oct 9, 2014