Dear faculty, staff and students,
I am writing to provide an update of the work of the Student Support Task Force and to share our plans for the Fall.
First, we are currently projecting a Fall 2021 retention rate of 87%. This is due in no small part to the attention that faculty and staff have paid to the FTIC class that began here in the middle of COVID, some of whom have never stepped foot on our campus. Your interactions, your support, engaging teaching, and your care have led these students to persist at Puget Sound. They want to be with and learn from you.
Second, the Task Force summarized your feedback from our March listening forums, and presented a summary of the year’s work to the President’s Cabinet, including the definition of student success:
Student success at Puget Sound combines student experience with intended outcomes. Our students transform, connect with community, and exercise agency, leading them to graduate from Puget Sound. Their success is evident in their ability to pursue goals that speak to their own values and the communities in which they find themselves. Puget Sound faculty and staff are committed to supporting student success in three interrelated ways:
Pillar 1: Transformation
Students embrace a continuous responsibility to broaden their perspectives and shift their worldview through impactful, interdisciplinary experiences. Their internal transformations lead to societal change through personal agency, critical reflection, ongoing dialogue, and service to a community.
Pillar 2: Connections
Students connect with the university through building relationships within an academic department(s), participation in co-curricular activities, and healthy, consistent interaction with community members. Students access structures and resources through which they develop a sense of community and belonging.
Pillar 3: Agency
Students take charge of their educational and co-curricular plans, in dialogue with their communities, and seek help when needed. They set goals and work to realize them, face difficulties bravely when they arise, and revise their goals when necessary.
Third, we are looking forward to our continued work in the Fall. We offer thanks to so many of you who shared your candid observations in identifying the barriers to students' success, as well as your good ideas for addressing those barriers. Based on that feedback as well as our review of the literature and information from other institutions, we identified four ideas for exploration in the Fall of 2021 that address the three major barriers we identified.
Barrier: Students who are not able to access the support they need become irritated, and if they are not feeling great academically and paying a lot of money, it is not worth staying here.
- Consider development of a single office to respond to student needs and provide referrals and support, including the necessary staffing and technology. The idea is for this to serve as a first stop shop where students, faculty and staff can get information they need. The staff of the office would direct students to the offices that can most effectively respond to their questions and needs, and assist in understanding the processes and policies that can be convoluted and bureaucratic. In addition to addressing areas of concern, this would be a place to refer students for opportunities to connect to one another and to opportunities such as experiential learning, or peer leadership for their successful experience at Puget Sound.
- Explore new structures for committees that overlap. We learned last year that there are numerous committees that have similar touchpoints for students, and the lines of authority and accountability are unclear, as are the committee charges in some cases. Examples of this are the Student Alert Group (SAG), the Self Harm Risk Assessment (SHRA) and the Threat Assessment and Behavioral Intervention Team (TABIT). Another example is the Diversity Advisory Council, and the Bias/Hate Education Resource Team (BHERT). An audit of these committees – their charges, expectations, and authority should lead to a more focused committee structure with clearer charges and accountability, making communications more streamlined, and reducing both bureaucracy and workload.
Barrier: A culture of silencing inhibits the exchange of ideas that students want out of their Puget Sound experience.
- Explore structures, systems and expectations regarding training around anti-racism, anti-oppression, and mental health for faculty, staff and students. This work has already begun in several areas of campus, and for anti-racism and anti-oppression, will involve the leadership of the vice president for institutional equity and diversity. Again, in an attempt to prevent overlapping, disconnected work, the SSTF will document the range of training that exists, identify gaps, and in concert with others involved in this work, propose a cohesive approach to training.
Barrier: Students who identify with a group (e.g., global majority, athletes, musicians) are more likely to persist, but if that group fractures for them, there is little else to hold them here.
- Identify five spaces on campus to be overhauled for better organic/authentic interaction. We heard from many sectors of the community that while they connect with particular groups, they don’t find authentic, natural opportunities to connect outside of those groups. Spaces, both indoor and outdoors, to gather for authentic, organic conversations are few and far between. Spaces with comfortable, warm furnishings that are easy to access and visible would allow for meaningful interaction among all members of our community and encourage authentic and spontaneous interaction. Our physical environment is a significant way of communicating how much we care about community interaction.
This fall, we will be reaching out to you again as we explore these ideas; our outreach will be more targeted than the open sessions we had last spring. If you have thoughts about the ideas above please reach out to any member of the Student Success Task Force.
Angela Weaver, Library
Christy Fisher, Student Affairs
Ellen Peters, Institutional Research, Chair
Jeff Halstead, Athletics
Khalila Fordham, Counseling, Health and Wellness Services
Matthew Boyce, Enrollment
Sam Kigar, Religious Studies
Tolu Taiwo, Access Scholars
Ellen Peters | Associate Provost
Institutional Research, Planning and Student Success