Helping our students succeed and make steady progress towards degree completion and a rewarding life after graduation is our principal mission at UNT, and everyone – from our custodial staff to the president – has an important role to play in this. Because faculty and academic staff spend so much time with students, you play an especially critical part. We know you already work tirelessly to help students succeed, but perhaps there are new ways we can make the student journey just a little smoother. If we work together, we can exceed the president’s retention goals. Here are a few ideas that may help you:
The President's message on student retention can be found in the "Soar for More retention initiative".
College can be a daunting experience for anybody. From first-generation students to students nearing graduation, all of our students may need some extra support during this difficult time. Our students may not even know what questions they should be asking; too often, students are embarrassed to seek help. Fortunately, UNT has a tremendous array of services aimed at helping students succeed not only academically, but also in all other areas of their life. Unfortunately, too often students are unaware of these wonderful opportunities. All of us can do them a valuable service by helping them find what they need. And the sooner we connect students with these the better!
General Resources for Students. A great place to start is the student resource page. This website gathers information on a wide variety of resources – academic support, student activities, mental and physical health resources, money management, and more.
Advising Help. We also know that early and frequent consultation with our academic advising community is so very important. Helping your students recognize this and helping them access appointments and key information by visiting the advising webpage can make a critical difference.
The Learning Center. The Learning Center can provide invaluable academic help to students through tutoring, academic coaching, supplemental instruction, and more. The Learning Center also administers the Math Lab. Encouraging students early on to learn more at The Learning Center can make a big difference.
The Writing Center. All students can profit from being better at expressing themselves in writing. Please consider sending them to UNT’s excellent Writing Center.
Mentoring. Mentoring can be a powerful student success and retention tool. The informal mentoring students receive from faculty and academic staff is invaluable. In addition, you can steer students towards our more formal mentoring programs:
Through the ACCESS Mentoring program, students are given the opportunity to connect with both a peer mentor and a UNT faculty or staff mentor.
Mental Health Resources. Many more students than ever before report significant mental health challenges. Few of us are trained as mental health professionals, but we can still provide critically needed help to our students by letting them know about the services provided by UNT’s Counseling and Testing Services. If you suspect that a student might be experiencing mental health challenges you can help them find their way to this resource.
Career Services. Participation in internships and student employment have long been recognized as key student success behaviors. Of course, faculty and staff are a wealth of information about these as well as about career options. In addition, you can make a big difference by encouraging students to connect with UNT’s Career Center.
Financial Support. All too frequently, students stop out of college because of financial pressures. Sometimes, a seemingly minor setback such as an unexpected car repair bill can set off a chain of events that lead a student to opt to leave us. Unbeknownst to many students, UNT has some resources to help. UNT’s Student Money Management Center is a fantastic resource. They can help students with emergency loans through the Eagle Support Program as well as helping them master budgeting and longer-tern planning.
Students who do not have a successful college experience very commonly mention not having been engaged and feeling like no one really cared whether or not they stayed in school and succeeded. Many of our students suffer from the so-called Imposter Syndrome: a deep-seated worry that they really don’t belong in college. Our students can be adept at the “brave face” - recognizing that feelings of not belonging are quite common is important. The occasional pep talk can help. So too is helping them develop a growth mindset (see the following list of helpful resources on fostering a growth mindset in our students). More broadly, going the extra mile to help all students feel welcomed and included in our classrooms, labs, and offices is something all of us can do. Even seemingly small steps, such as learning students’ names or honoring their choices of pronouns, can make an outsized difference. Some curricular resources for instructional faculty can be found under "Resources for Faculty Reflection".
Faculty and academic staff can also help our students by becoming more familiar with trends in the data. UNT has a remarkable collection of data aimed at helping community members make informed data decisions. This includes an in-depth set of retention dashboards, as well as dashboards on grade distributions (including DFWI rates), enrollment trends, student demographics, and many others. Visit Insights 2.0 to learn about training opportunities so that you can be in the know!
In addition to Insights, our Navigate Student Success Platform has a robust data platform that can help identify students that may need additional support or interventions. Check out navigate.unt.edu/training for future training opportunities or email email@example.com for assistance.
An important way that instructional faculty can help students succeed and progress is by making their expectations as clear as possible. Many of us have used the same basic syllabus for many years. Why not invest a bit of time now in re-examining your syllabi? It could make all the difference to students unused to this important scholastic document. UNT’s Center for Learning, Experimentation, Application, and Research (CLEAR) has a helpful syllabus template that includes all sorts of useful tips and checklists aimed at helping you.