More than 50 faculty members and a dozen administrators from California State University, Dominguez Hills gathered for a half-day symposium centered on high-impact practices aimed at student success on March 27 in the Loker Student Union.
“What we’re here to discuss is the awesome things that you are doing in your classes and in your research in relationship to students. Today is about what you do that keeps you here in the academy,” said Kaye Bragg, acting associate vice president for Academic Programs and Faculty Development.
In roundtable discussions faculty exchanged best practices and ideas for high-impact activities that lead to improved student involvement and performance and increased graduation rates.
Welcoming participants, University Interim President Willie J. Hagan noted that by some predictions one third of American jobs created by 2018 will require a four-year degree, and by the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, college graduates earn more than $1 million more in a lifetime than people with only a high school diploma. He asserted that higher education is still the number one vehicle for upward mobility and that post-secondary degree holders have greater prospects for job attainment and job security. Consequently, student success is paramount.
“How do we improve on our current best practices for student success? How do we implement new ones? And do we know what is being successfully done by individuals or groups of faculty or departments across the campus? And how do we ensure best practices of our faculty are more broadly known or more broadly shared?” Hagan asked.
Hagan as well as other campus administrators and faculty are looking to replicate the effects of existing programs at the university that offer high-impact experiences, such as the Summer Bridge Academy, Upward Bound, and Male Success Alliance, which all have proven positive results on student success.
“The one constant–and the reason we are having this meeting–is that the role of faculty is critical in student success. The fact that you create and implement high-impact faculty practices in the classrooms, laboratories, in the field, in one-on-one meetings with the students …that’s what this symposium is all about; the fact that you share student success best practices with each other while learning new ways to implement new ideas,” said Hagan, who hopes the symposium will continue as a series throughout each academic year.
Keynote speaker Ken O’Donnell, senior director for Student Engagement and Academic Initiatives and Partnerships at the CSU Office of the Chancellor, who speaks nationally on the student success, said figuring out what is effective is a work in progress.
“I think there is more wisdom imparted with you in this room about what works with students who most need the best we have to offer,” he said.
O’Donnell went on to say that CSU Dominguez Hills is leading the way with access victories. However, with that comes a widened spectrum of cultural expectations, learning styles, aptitude, and disparate prior experience with academia, making teaching a more complex art and science. He added that there’s no magic bullet that guarantees success in the modern era of education in which universities are responsible for “teaching almost everything to almost everyone.”
But university educators are reaching students through what the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) characterizes as high-impact practices such as service learning and community engagement, peer mentorship, collaboration with faculty on research, international and diversity experiences, and internships and capstone courses and projects.
“It’s that connection person-to-person that motivates learning,” O’Donnell said.
Recent data from a study at CSU Northridge suggests that among students on that campus who had just one high-impact experience graduation rates (within six-years) jumped from 38 percent to 49 percent among Latino students and from 55 percent to 63 percent for non-Latinos, and with two high-impact experiences the respective increases grew to 65 and 68 percent. O’Donnell reported the findings are holding up as they are corroborated among other CSU campuses.
O’Donnell stressed that with resources and faculty already stretched thin, finding creative solutions for providing high-impact programs warrants the effort because it “future proofs” students, fosters innovation, and the activity itself often helps tackle some of the challenges the world faces.
For students, who are among the first generation to have nearly limitless access to information, learning how to process information intelligently and continue learning on their own may be the most important skill that they take from college, especially since by all indications they will likely have multiple jobs throughout their lives.
“Give students a compass,” O’Donnell said.
For more information about faculty development, visit ctl.csudh.edu.