Retention Session

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

Jan. 19, 1996

Jan. 19: Universities Study Ways to Keep Students In School

Every new freshmen who steps onto a college campus hopes to graduate some day. But nationally one in three never makes it to their sophomore year, even though every indicator shows they should have been successful.

A nationally acclaimed specialist at techniques that help college freshmen stay in school will share his strategies with UW-River Falls faculty, as well as representatives from 14 Twin Cities universities and colleges in seminars hosted by UW-RF.

John N. Gardner, director of the Freshman Year Experience at the University of South Carolina, will present a series of workshops and lectures on Feb. 8-9 for faculty and staff on retaining new students and enhancing the quality of student life.

Gardner is the director of the Freshman Year Experience National Research Center, and author of nationally best-selling guides for college students and their parents.

UW-RF Dean of Students Roger Ballou said the two-day session will emphasize faculty and staff roles and responsibilities in helping new students make the difficult transition to college life.

Institutions like UW-River Falls are admitting students who have demonstrated potential for academic success, Ballou explained. Thus, such institutions have an obligation to provide a climate for these students to succeed. Public universities have additional accountability to taxpayers to ensure their investment in young people is fulfilled.

"Quality institutions are always working to make the quality of life better for their students," Ballou said. "We must do all we can to enhance the quality of student life. Gardner will help us to do better what we already do well. "We have to take every single student and give him or her as much support as possible, We can't hold their hands, but we have to help."

Among the issues Gardner will address are the quality of student academic advising, strategies to ensure students are taking the right courses, determining whether students are being successful, and if they are oriented toward the goal of selecting a major and making progress toward graduation.

Gardner's strategies are cited widely, including in such publications as U.S. News & World Report's annual listing of "America's Best Colleges."

He offers practical advice to students, such as the importance of forming a significant personal relationship with an adult on campus, identifying academic skills resource centers on campus and using them, developing a schedule and sticking to it, joining study groups, associating with faculty outside the classroom, carefully selecting friends, getting involved in campus activities, attending classes, dealing with stress, finding a good academic adviser, and enrolling in freshmen-year orientation courses.

During the course of the two-day visit, Gardner also will hold a special workshop at UW-RF for students affairs deans, vice presidents and faculty from Twin Cities higher education institutions. Attending will be representatives from Augsburg College, Bethel College, Carleton College, the College of St. Catherine, Concordia College, Hamline University, Macalester College, Minneapolis College of Art & Design, the College of St. Benedict, St. John's University, the University of Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas, Metropolitan State University and St. Olaf College.

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