Armstrong State University
Bearings: News and Perspectives for Academic Affairs

Bearings: News & Perspectives for Academic Affairs

My Armstrong Experience—Week Five

Oct 10, 2012, 03:22 pm - Carey Adams

Thank you to everyone who turned out for the general faculty meeting last week.  Many faculty have told me how much they appreciate such opportunities to gather with colleagues from across campus.  Email may be a more efficient means of communicating information, but there is no substitute for face-to-face conversation and being reminded of how much we enjoy one another's company.  It also is important to remind ourselves that ultimately our individual efforts combine to produce the collective effect of the university.  

One "collective effect" I mentioned last week was our goal to achieve a first-to-second year retention rate of 80% for first time, full-time freshmen by 2020.  Retention rate is something that we measure, officially, just once a year in the fall.  We typically are not aware throughout the year whether that number is going to be up or down, and the average person on campus would have a hard time predicting what the new number would be.  I am reminded of the unpleasant surprise I sometimes experience when I don't check my own blood pressure between doctor visits.  Even if I'm not checking my numbers regularly, however, I can usually predict whether my BP will be up or down at the doctor's office, because I do know some other indicating factors.  I know whether I have been exercising, if I've been adding salt to my food, and whether my pants are fitting more snugly than they should, for example.  These things I am able to monitor on a daily basis, and I generally know what the results of these and other behaviors will be.
What might be some of those ongoing indicators for us with respect to our big picture numbers reflecting student persistence and success?  If we were a manufacturing firm we might might monitor consecutive days without accident or the percentage of products machined within quality parameters.  Airlines can observe how many of their flights depart and land on time.  To what might we pay attention?  Here are a few of my own thoughts:
  • The attendance rate in my classes.
  • The number of students coming to my office for help who don't have to go to another office to have their question answered or their problem resolved.
  • How frequently my advisees stop by my office just to say hello.
  • The percentage of students in my department who are involved in a campus organization.
  • The number of my studentswhom I can call by name.
  • The comments of students in response to mid-term class evaluations, and the number of constructive suggestions I implement.
  • How long it takes me to respond to student email or return phone calls.
  • How often I remind my students of resources available to them, such as the Writing Center, tutoring services, or library assistance.
  • The number of questions my students ask in class.
If we are paying attention to things like these and consciously attending to our habits of mind and behavior, the likelihood of those once-a--year numbers improving will be greater.  And, as it happens, if those once-a-year numbers are better, my blood pressure is likely to be lower, too :-)

Have a great week!