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Fort Hays continues student retention program

8/10/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University wants to keep students in school.

FHSU has "designed and implemented a variety of strategies to help improve retention from that first year to the second year," said Brett Bruner, director of persistence and retention.

All freshmen students who graduated from high school within the past 12 months are required to take a one credit-hour freshman seminar course.

The seminar course is an extended orientation transition course.

Approximately 25 students are enrolled in each section, and this fall there will be 40 sections. Students help one another navigate together experiences such as going home for the first time or missing their first high school football game.

"They learned some things that worked and some that didn't," Bruner said of last year's seminar students.

Seminars are taught by any campus faculty or staff member with a master's degree who has been on campus for at least one year. Instructors are split about half and half between faculty and staff.

The class has a standardized syllabus, but how to teach the content is up to each individual instructor.

"They know what meets each class' needs," Bruner said.

There is a virtual section of freshman seminar tailored for those students.

Though the alert warning system Tiger IQ has been in place for some time, the university is working with a new vendor.

The system provides a holistic approach to student concerns on campus. For instance if a student isn't showing up to class, a faculty member can follow up with the students. Faculty members can check if the absence is isolated to one class or consistent in all classes. Faculty and staff can send positive reinforcement messages, too.

Family programs also are part of the retention plan.

"Parents are our partners in the success and retention of our students," Bruner said.

An extended orientation summer camp called Golden Beginnings helps students transition socially and academically to university life.

Students who aren't returning to campus and have withdrawn from all classes during a semester are asked to complete a student survey.

"We're reaching out to that student to see what the reasons for leaving are," Bruner said.

Bruner said his office wants to know if the reason is within the university's control or are external.

Success of the retention programs will be measured this fall by the number of second year students enrolled on the 20th day of classes.

"We want to be here to help students achieve the goals they set for themselves," Bruner said.