Student Success position to be announced this week

After holding open forums for the interim vice provost of Student Success position Oct. 4-5, Interim Provost Duane Hrncir said a decision about the position will be made during the week of Oct. 16. Hrncir said the position is meant to organize student success efforts on campus.

“I think the idea of the vice provost for Student Success is to find someone to help coordinate all of the good things we are doing and then work with the campus to find ways to enhance that or maybe there are new initiatives centered around student success,” Hrncir said. “The whole idea is let’s be sure we have processes and procedures in places that will help students be successful at UAA. That really entails someone who can talk across disciplines. We’re not talking somebody who’s just in the academic world or just in the Student Affairs world.”

Vice Chancellor for University Advancement, Megan Olson, was the chair of the search committee for this position. There was no student on the search committee. Olson said student input in the UAA 2020 strategic planning, which this position was formulated from, was taken into account.

“Students had really robust participation in the development of the UAA 2020 plan.” Olson said. “The provost — who at the time was Sam Gingerich — he formed the search committee and that committee began… in early summer. The committee is made up of staff and faculty, and recognized that UAA 2020, to which students contributed robustly would be guiding forces for this position.”

Olson said the search committee was looking for candidates that could bridge departments at UAA.

“I think that one of the main goals and something that we talked about from the beginning within our search committee as we developed the job description was the need for culture change here at UAA,” Olson said. “And orientation towards student success. One of the goals are the obvious ones that are included in UAA 2020. Those aren’t the only goals but those become some great metrics and milestones that the interim vice provost for student success will strive to succeed.”

Four candidates had a chance to present on the questions of, “What does success look like at UAA in 2020 as a result of their leadership and what do they see as the top priorities for this position?”

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Those four candidates in alphabetical order are: Daniel Kline (Director of General Education), Claudia Lampman (Director of the Department of Psychology), Tara Smith (Professor of English as a Second Language) and E. André Thorn (Director of the Multicultural Center).

Kline said communication and advising were two things that could be improved under his leadership.

“If there’s one thing that we can fix — and I’ve heard this from a lot of folks — communication. Both internal and external,” Kline said. “I don’t know that we’ve done a communication audit here at UAA, but Michigan State did one last year of the number of emails their first year students get the first semester: 340, and that may strike a cord, right? Multiple places, multiple information, sometimes conflicting information.”

Lampman said using Open Educational Resources and eliminating other small course requirement-type problems would be her approach as interim vice provost.

“I think there are a lot of small things we can fix, lots and lots of small things I think we can fix, and if we fix some of those small things — if we fix all of those small things– we will move forward in terms of student success,” Lampman said.

Smith said part of her strategy would be focusing on students who may need extra time taking tests.

“If there were enough people that were interested in providing untimed testing to all of their students we might have a different conversation about what kinds of supports need to be in place,” Smith said. “And we know that this would benefit a lot of groups who don’t get, who don’t qualify for [Disability Support Services] support. So yes, students with testing anxiety will be better served, and they won’t have to raise their hand and say, ‘I have testing anxiety, I need special accommodations.’ It would simply be provided. Students for whom English is a second language take more time to process English language exams.”

Thorn said he would focus on groups with low retention and graduation at UAA.

“Status quo would suggest that we’re going to get more of the same. I have no interest in that because the populations that I serve are amongst those that have the lowest retention graduation rates on this campus,” Thorn said. “That must change. Accountability… So we find our self repeatedly in situations where students we say we care about are not faring well. What are we going to do? This is not an intellectual exercise for me, this is my life’s work. Accountability. Speaking truth to power.”

The interim vice provost of student success is a full time position underneath Academic Affairs.