BOV learns of faculty initiatives to boost student recruitment and retention
The Radford University Board of Visitors heard from university deans about their plans to better utilize faculty throughout their colleges to optimize student engagement, recruitment and retention at a special meeting on Jan. 25, 2023.
The meeting was held virtually and specifically outside the board’s regular agenda-packed quarterly meetings to allow board members sufficient time to learn about some of the initiatives being implemented.
In December 2022, the board approved changes to the teaching responsibilities section of the Teaching and Research Faculty Handbook that allowed for the restructuring of faculty workload, removing the teaching requirement to allow for work outside the classroom aimed at stimulating recruitment and retention.
Deans from each college gave a brief presentation of one of the many projects being developed within their colleges, some already in action. Examples aimed at recruiting and retention came from the Davis College of Business and Economics, College of Visual and Performing Arts, College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences and School of Nursing, Waldron College of Health and Human Services, College of Education and Human Development and the Artis College of Science and Technology.
In addition to these examples, each dean also delivered to the board a more detailed listing.
“Two of our biggest challenges at Radford are recruiting students and retaining students. And our biggest resource is our faculty,” said interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Marten denBoer, Ph.D. “We want to optimize the work of our faculty to best benefit our students.
“If they are really good at engaging students in their research or other scholarly activities, that is a really high-impact practice which helps retain our students and helps them be successful,” the provost continued. “Some of our faculty are really good at external relations with companies or other entities, and those relationships could lead to internships for students and eventually career jobs.”
Work has been in progress for months to develop unique strategies for faculty workload optimization, explained Matthew J. Smith, dean of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences.
“These are individuals [faculty members] who have the flexibility to do something to add value to the institution” beyond time spent teaching the classroom, Radford University President Bret Danilowicz explained. The president noted, too, that “this is not less workload optimization, just different workload optimization.” He stressed that faculty who participate in the new workload optimization initiatives will “still have opportunities the same as everyone else for tenure and promotion.”
DenBoer explained to the board that each college’s initiatives will include measurements to determine whether each is “working to benefit our students.”
Kicking off the dean’s presentations, Davis College Dean Joy Bhadury, Ph.D., said his college is working on a plan to recruit homeschooled students, with Assistant Professor of Accounting Rob Warren, D.B.A., leading the charge.
The metrics for this plan “are very simple as far as we are concerned,” Bhadury said. “There is only one metric I am interested in: how many students we recruit through this.”
Other proposals aimed at recruiting came from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, whose dean, Stephanie Caulder, D.M., spoke about several activities led by Theatre and Cinema Instructor Will Sawyer. Those plans include coordinating auditions or portfolio reviews for high school students and recruitment events on and off campus.
Smith highlighted the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences’ newly created mock trial team as a way for faculty and current Radford students to engage with high school students at regional tournaments around Virginia. Criminal justice faculty member Don Martin will lead the effort.
The School of Nursing already has a project underway, a living-learning community for nursing majors, said the school’s interim dean, Wendy Downey, D.N.P. Associate Professor of Nursing Sharla Cooper is guiding the initiative as well as serving as a leader of the college’s student-nurse organization. The efforts translate into nursing education, Downey said, which may help alleviate shortages of nurses and teachers around the United States.
Among the retention strategies presented to the board was one from the Waldron College of Health and Human Services. Dean Ken Cox, Au.D., spoke about plans generated by faculty in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders to provide academic support to students outside the classroom and help create a sense of community by converting faculty office hours into study halls. Initial outcomes, Cox said, indicate study hall attendance exceeds the time students visit faculty in their respective offices.
College of Education and Human Development Dean Tamara Wallace, Ph.D., said that Health and Human Performance Associate Professor Anna Devito, Ph.D., will be working with academically at-risk students to help guide them toward improved classroom performance. This initiative includes regular check-ins and individualized plans with students.
Mathematics and statistics faculty members Ojas Dave, Ph.D., and Jobriath Kaufman, Ph.D., will be offering drop-in tutoring study halls for department majors. Sessions will be available in dedicated spaces in Whitt Hall for math and statistics courses, Artis College of Science and Technology Dean Steven Bachrach, Ph.D., explained.
“This is a very dynamic process. These are evolving ideas,” Smith said. “We are trying something rather unique here, and it is exciting to think about trying something that no one else is doing, and I think that is a real strength of who we are and what we are about to do.”
Board of Visitors Rector Debra K. McMahon, Ph.D., said the presented initiatives and workload optimization are “very important for the functioning of the university and the well-being of the faculty.”