UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

I give that a 2

When a first year student loves what you did for them, that encounter just might get a good review. And if they found the interaction less than stellar? Their letting someone know can help the university know where to improve.

It’s part of the university’s efforts to improve student success and increase retention rates. By 2013, UNCG’s goal for retention for fall of first year to fall of second year by 2013 is 80 percent.

The First Year Task Force began last January, and it’s led by Kristen Christman and Kim Sousa-Peoples. It grew out of work that Cherry Callahan and Steve Roberson led about the first year experience. And this Text Track program (using the Spartan Scale grading system – see visual) is part of the Task Force’s assessment plan.

The “Spartan Scale” allows 53 first year students to give a grade to their interactions and experiences on campus. When something is perceived as problematic to a student, they can text and alert us to it, she explains. If we can do anything about it, then we will try. If we can’t, at least the student feels heard, she notes. “For example, one student said it rains too much here. Well, what can you do?”

And when something goes very well? They can text it and give it a positive score.

Any clear patterns from students’ texts so far? “They do like the staff in the Dining Hall, [finding them] friendly and helpful, and the Jackson Library resources are very useful,” Sousa-Peoples says, according to the texts to date.

Graduate assistant Jessica Quattrucci, who is supporting Your First Year/First Year Task Force, collects the Text Track messages as emails through Google Voice.

The new First Year Web site, a clearinghouse of info, is tailored just for these first year students. For example, having trouble with academics? It tells them where to turn. Need help with classes? There are eight places to click, from Tutoring info to Writing resources to Special accommodations. Many of these pages already existed. The idea is to make it easier for the students to access what they need, so they can be successful.

Additionally, 65 students this year in a pilot program spent part of their first two days of classes helping students to their classes and classrooms. They wore lime green T-shirts – the motto was “Look for the Lime.” Next year, there will be about 300 students – with an eye toward efficient use of resources, student groups who are already trained (such as RAs and Spartan Guides) will be utilized. This year, these SPEARS (student peers encouraging achievement for retention success) were from SOS (Student Orientation Staff) and PALs (Peer Academic Leaders).

Throughout the semester, these 65 students also are each contacting four first-year students. Whether by phone, email or Facebook, it’s a simple check-in system. This should help with retention efforts, Sousa-Peoples explains. If a first-year student is considering transferring, staff members can be made aware of the student’s needs and perhaps something can be done to help the student.

Every department has the potential to positively impact retention rates, the task force notes. It is a university-wide effort.

By Mike Harris