Models of Excellence: Serving the whole college student

Honorees demonstrate commitment to holistic college experience

Effective student success initiatives begin long before that first day of classes and often continue beyond graduation.

They contribute to a complete education experience, intended to attract the right students, help them find their passions, keep them in school and boost their chances for post-graduation success. The colleges and universities highlighted in the third round of UB’s national Models of Excellence awards program demonstrate a commitment to that holistic experience.

An undecided student is an unfocused student, so many schools require the declaration of a major early on. One of our Models of Excellence institutions requires all students to enroll in a degree-granting program by the time they receive 45 credit hours.

The goal is to increase the retention rate of undecided freshmen by requiring them to select a concentration from eight options upon admission.

Another college has seen firsthand how an online writing lab can help students communicate clearly and concisely. Built using responsive design in an open source environment, the lab builds writing skills in eight areas. Proof of its success is its adoption by 70 institutions worldwide.

Lots of students take advantage of study groups. It is always effective when classmates can come together to reinforce concepts. But what if the study group was super-sized into a living and learning community? That’s what one northeastern university does, by creating special housing for students who have common academic interests.

Staying on target means keeping up with coursework and meeting other obligations, such as registering for classes, meeting deadlines and paying fees. And, yes, there’s an app for that.

At one California university, a homegrown iOS app lets students organize coursework, extracurricular activities and personal tasks. It also creates categories based on class schedules and has a smart class planner, color-coded workload views and task alerts. Moreover, the app’s content and features update frequently as administrators analyze user data.

College leaders know that learning by doing reinforces necessary concepts and skills, so they create internship programs that allow students to work within the community.

One New England college starts students preparing for internships in the fall of freshman year. Students must complete three internships: two 120-hour experiences during their freshman and sophomore years plus a full-semester internship during the fall of their senior year.

The college offers a number of initiatives designed to make the intern experience productive and rewarding for both the student and employer. Students say these efforts helped them find a job after graduation.

The colleges and universities profiled in the following pages understand the importance of their roles in promoting student success, and will no doubt inspire other schools to adopt similar innovations.

Read the honorees’ stories here

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