During the 2017 State of the College event, Dean Earlie Washington discussed plans aimed at improving the college's retention of second year students. A number of activities are already underway to help keep students engaged and successful in their education.
Last year, the college's sophomore retention rate was slightly lower than the University's. As a result, Dean Washington commissioned a task force to study ways to increase degree opportunities for undergraduate students in the college without adding costs. "I am convinced," she said in the State of the College address, "that given the number of undergraduate courses we currently offer, there may be ways of repackaging courses that can result in viable, employable bachelor’s degrees." That task force has already submitted a number of creative, executable recommendations that may lead to new undergraduate degrees in the college in the near future.
Another priority is directly targeting retention rates. In 2017, the college received a Provost Retention Grant to increase retention by 10% next fall. Three major activities are planned to achieve this goal:
- Anatomage table -- a new piece of virtual reality technology that allows students to explore anatomy with unprecidented detail in a fully digital environment -- to provide additional instruction to small groups of students. Anatomy classes are required for pre-professional students, and success in this challenging class can be an indicator of overall academic success. The college has hired student peer coaches to work closely with Biology 1910 students, to help them achieve success in the course. Along with individual attention, peer coaches will use the college's
- Faculty and staff were encouraged to take part in a common read of a book about the growth mindset - a new way of training our minds to view failures or setbacks as opportunities for growth. Faculty and staff were invited to serve as student retention advocates, reading the book, receiving training, and facilitating student discussions. The goal is to move the college to a strength-based perspective of student engagement.
- All of the units in the college have been asked to develop orientation programs for our pre-professional students. The programs will center on professional behavior, professional ethics and other professional standards.
Improving retention rates will remain a priority for CHHS and WMU in coming years. The steps being taken now are sure to be the first of many that will lead to better metrics and, more importantly, more successful CHHS graduates working in health care and human services careers in the future.