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test-taking, critical-thinking skills
and career development.
According to Smith, students
who take the course in the fall are
seven percent more likely to return
to ECU the following fall, and
those who take it in the spring are
13 percent more likely to return.
Freshmen in summer orientation
classes are also given a survey in
which they are asked to list which
social organizations or interest groups they might want to join,
giving administrators another avenue for getting the students
engaged when they arrive for the fall semester.
The Academic Enrichment Center is also hiring a new
staffer this year who will meet with students who want to
withdraw from the university. “We want to get a sense not only
of why they’re leaving, but also if they need to be one of those
“stop-out” people, so we canmake it easier for them to get
back in,” director Shelly Myers said.
Residence hall coordinators and resident advisers are
trained to spot students who may not be fitting in. They
tend to be students who are constantly on the phone to their
parents, “loners” who sit by themselves in the cafeteria or in
dormitory lounges, and students who do not decorate their
Some efforts at retention are more spontaneous and
unstructured. Jayne Geissler, director of the Academic
Advising and Support Center, relates a story of a student who
arrived on campus in August and announced after less than a
week that he was homesick and ready to quit.
“I asked himwhat one thing would make him feel better,”
Geissler said. “He was a football player in high school and
missed that terribly.” So, the young man’s freshman seminar
class, taught by Geissler, organized a flag football team and
made the young man the coach. “It was the first time that I saw
a smile on his face!” said Geissler. “So for me, the challenge
of any freshman seminar class is to find the one thing that
canmake a difference in a student adjusting and thriving in
college. Even if it’s a football game.”
The challenge of retaining students, while acute in the first
weeks, doesn’t get much easier down the road. When she first
took her position three years ago, Geissler was immediately
confronted with students who were having difficulty
academically. “They would come in and say ‘I had three D’s
and two F’s last semester.’ And my first question would be,
‘Well, what do you think happened?’ Ninety-nine percent
of the time, their response would be, ‘I didn’t realize college
would be so different fromhigh school.’ Freshmen know it’s
going to be different, but they don’t have a clue.”
Geissler’s office also faces a steady stream of students
who can’t decide on a major, or who have been suspended
academically and have returned to campus, or who have to
reconsider their major or career goals because they can’t meet
the requirements.
ECU, which has medical and nursing schools, and soon
will have a dental school, attracts numerous students who
find out after a couple of years that they can’t meet the grade
East Carolina University
July 2008
nrollment at East Carolina University continues to grow, and
efforts to improve retention and graduation rates are still producing
measurable results. “We have not increased as much as we would
have hoped, but to change those rates takes multiple years,” said Judy
Bailey, executive director of enrollment management at ECU. “You
would expect to see that over a four- or five-year span,” she added,
noting that
National CrossTalk’s
article about ECU had been published
just two years earlier, in fall 2006.
Bailey served as president of NorthernMichigan University and
WesternMichigan University for a total of nine years, before establishing
a consulting firm in 2007. “ECU hired me to give a broad overview,
an assessment of what they needed to do in terms of enrollment
management,” she explained.
Following Bailey’s report inMay 2007, which recommended
several changes in policy, she was asked to “pull together a holistic
approach across the campus, and lead a campus conversation on
strategic enrollment management,” she said. “Chancellor Ballard asked
me to come and begin working with them on looking at a broader
understanding of how we accommodate the kind of growth we are
Bailey described the growth as “phenomenal,” and said that
enrollment at ECU in fall 2008 was expected to be the largest ever, close
to 27,000. “We are estimating that our first-time full-time freshmen will
number around 4,700, compared to 4,222 last year,” she said.
The summer “tough love” sessions for incoming freshmen and their
parents are still popular, boasting record attendance. An eighth session
was added in summer 2008 to satisfy the demand. “It’s an outstanding
program,” Bailey said. “It’s an academic as well as a social setting.
They want to know that they will belong, and be a part of this exciting
community. And of course the parents want to know about costs.”
When the orientation is completed, each student has a schedule and an
ECU’s Academic Enrichment Center, which had just been
established at the time of the 2006 article, has been expanded and
renamed the Center for
Academic Enrichment and
Allied Health. “When the center
was brand new, our mission was
working with academic skill
development and the pre-health
and pre-law programs,” said
Shelly Myers, director of the
“Over that last couple of
years we found such a need
in the pre-professional areas, and we found that we couldn’t do all the
things in our original mission,” Myers said. In response, a new tutoring
center was opened to satisfy the demand. “The Pirate Center (named for
the school mascot) is a campus-wide service that was developed to take
on that component—to help all students with their academic skills, and
offer workshops in note-taking and test-taking, that kind of academic
Enrollment at East
Carolina University in
fall 2008 was expected
to be the largest ever,
close to 27,000.
Some freshmen arrive
poorly prepared, with the
mistaken assumption
that college is just high
school writ large.