Claudia Lampman discusses student success in open forum

Claudia Lampman, UAA’s interim vice provost for Student Success, held an open forum titled “Student Success — Who We Are and Where We’re Going” on Tuesday, March 27 in the Consortium Library.

Student success is one of the four UAA 2020 core values, which also include excellence, access and affordability. Lampman was named vice provost in November after having served as a psychology professor at UAA for over 25 years.

Photo credit: Jian Bautista

In her new position, she collected and analyzed data of diverse student success issues to identify potential obstacles preventing UAA students from succeeding. The first part of the presentation was focused on the analysis and comparison of these data sets.

“I want to understand who our students are and how [UAA] compare[s] to others across the nation,” Lampman said.

About 45 percent of UAA students switch their major during their first two years in college, according to the data presented. Even though switching majors is common for first-year students, institutions with student success initiatives experience less fluctuation between degree programs, Lampman explained.

To find out more about the application process for new students, the vice provost applied to several universities and compared her findings to the process at UAA.

“I wanted to see what it was like to be a college student today,” Lampman said.

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The very first decisions students make when applying for college are of great importance for their later success, she said.

The first thing applicants are asked to do is to make decisions — about their academic level, their college and degree program. The main problem is that most students make these decisions “completely uninformed,” according to Lampman.

“Many of the students do not know what ‘undergraduate’ or ‘graduate’ means,” Lampman said. “That’s why we sometimes have [incoming undergraduate students] applying for graduate-level programs.”

She also pointed to UAA’s low retention and graduation rates. Of the students beginning a baccalaureate degree in 2012, only 71.8 percent came back after their first year at UAA. The numbers dropped to 55 percent after the second year — and less than one in ten students finished their bachelor’s degree in four years.

The numbers for associate degrees are even lower. Three percent of the 2014 cohort finished their degree in two years; 15 percent graduated after four years.

“Our graduation rates are half of what our peer institutions [open-enrollment institutions] have,” Lampman said. “We need to figure out why [the rates] are so low and change that.”

One reason for the low retention and graduation rates is that freshmen often take classes they are not prepared for and drop out of college when they fail them, Lampman explained.

“Biology A111 is not a class you should take your first semester if you’re not taking college-level math or writing classes,” Lampman said.

The vice provost for student success also looked at general course pass rates. In fall 2017, UAA students took a total of 25,877 courses — 8,014 of these courses were not passed, according to the data presented.

“That’s $5 million in tuition spent on classes students didn’t pass,” Lampman said. “Too many of our students are starting out on the wrong track without any guidance.”

Lampman said one of her biggest goals is to establish a mandatory first-year advising program helping incoming students through their first 30 credits.

The university is currently in the process of hiring a director of first-year advising; 10 more first-year advisors will be be hired soon.

UAA is also launching the EAB Student Success Collaborative, a data driven tool for academic advising. This tool will be connected to an app called Seawolf Tracks, helping students to stay on their path to graduation.

The app is going to be customized based on a survey the students are taking and serves as an organizational tool including schedules, to dos and relevant academic advice.

Instead of asking incoming freshmen to choose a major right away, universities offering meta majors ask students to choose a broader area of interest such as health sciences and professions, humanities and communication or education.

With meta majors, it would be easier for students to explore their options first and choose a specific major later, Lampman explained. Students would still be able to declare a major if they wanted to.

The reactions to this idea were mixed, but generally positive.

“Some of these categories would require cooperation between the colleges and this could be both a challenge and an opportunity,” Shannon Gramse, associate professor for writing, said.

He also emphasized the importance of social cohesion in the campus community for academic success — students need to feel like they are actually part of a community, he said.

UAA junior Daniel Remington generally feels positive about the idea. He thinks that it could be beneficial to replace some GERs with more classes based on these interest categories.

“I think [having meta majors] is good idea as long as taking classes in a broader category first doesn’t keep you from graduating on time,” Remington said.

There is another opportunity to attend the open forum on Thursday, April 5. The 90-minute presentation begins at 2 p.m. in Room 307 of the UAA/APU Consortium Library.