Post Classifieds

Efforts pay off as more students continue studies

By Audrey Seaman
On March 8, 2011

Jonathon Schoepf spent every free moment last fall at Norwich's infirmary simply talking to people. On Saturday nights, attending the campus movie became part of his job.

Shelby Wallace speaks with nearly every student who considers leaving Norwich.

Richard Schneider gets most of his essential information at the gym, during period breaks of a hockey game, or accompanying a student up the centennial stairs.

These Norwich employees — regimental executive officer, director of the Center for Student Success and the university president — are just three of many at Norwich working as a team towards one ultimate goal: communicating with students to provide the best college experience in effort to increase the number of students who graduate with a degree from NU.

So far, their combined efforts seem to be working.

"We have already seen more gains in first-to-second year retention," Wallace said, "and improvements with upperclassmen as well." The president is also seeing the growth in retention. "This is the first time ever that we are retaining the size of the freshman class because I am out of racks. It is so great," Schneider said.

The biggest improvement has been in rook losses. In fall of 2010, 12.1 percent of rooks left the corps compared to 15.7 percent in the fall of 2009.

The retention rate between fall and spring semesters also improved this year, increasing to 93 percent from last year's 89 percent.

In 2006, the board of trustees proposed that a committee be formed to focus on graduation rates. A year later, this committee was established and presented an implementation plan to help the school, according to Wallace.

Once an admissions officer for NU, Wallace recently started in the newly established position of director of the Center for Student Success. Although most of its efforts are to increase the retention rate, "the center has morphed into what it means to please each individual student," Wallace said.

Nearly 140 faculty, staff and students composed 15 subcommittees to target their motto: support, success and satisfaction. As the main overseer, Wallace embraces the university community effort.

With such a large team effort, Norwich should be able to achieve great things, according to Wallace. "We have established the retention goal so that by 2019, we have a 70 percent six-year graduation rate," Wallace said.

"This is the next big hurdle for our school," Schneider said, "We are currently on the national average, but I don't want average — this is Norwich, we are better than average."

This effort has many avenues of approach, according to Schneider, but he thinks, "There is no reason why we shouldn't be able to reach the goal, knowing the caliber of the students that we are bringing in."

"Norwich is unique with both corps and civilian students," Wallace said. With the Corps of Cadets, NU finds that it must not only focus on retaining students throughout their freshmen year, but also during sophomore year, according to Wallace.

"Freshman year is more transitional, as

phomore year is an exploration year for students," Wallace said. With this knowledge, the center for student success has identified issues and determined what will work for NU, she said.

"A lot of students who may have concerns or issues or questions but they don't know who to go to," Wallace said. A small problem may evolve into something bigger that results in the student's departure from the school. To avoid this situation, Wallace sits down with every student for an exit survey.

In 2009, the committees proposed a corps restructuring that placed all of the freshmen rooks into one battalion. This change "increased the commitment to academic support by the cadre and academic success of the recruits," Wallace said.

One of the efforts that the committee established in the fall of 2010 was the Corporal Academic Program (CAM). This mentoring program for new students fits right into the "leadership laboratory of NU," Wallace said, "If students have connections with other students or programs, they have more influence to stay."

"The CAM program was started to kill two birds with one stone: one, to keep up the academic success and two, to solve the problem of sophomores not knowing what to do with themselves," said Schoepf, 21, a senior engineering management major. Schoepf is one of the cadet leaders in charge of the CAM program.

Although this program has been running for less than one year, statistics show an increase in freshmen grade point averages, according to Wallace. "There were definite improvements with academics and retention after the introduction of the CAM program," Schoepf said, "And looking forward, it's only going to get better."

"Three of my mentees switched to civilian, but I developed a good relationship with the mentee that is still in the corps," said Alex Gordon, 19, a studies in war and peace major from Carthage, N.Y.

This sophomore activity helps get the students out of the "sophomore slump," Wallace said, "They are taking the leadership position very seriously."

Two years ago, when 22-year-old senior political science major from Houston, Texas, Catherine Flores was a sophomore, "We didn't do anything," Flores said, "We only did one sophomore training session."

"We have now actually over solved the problem of sophomores not knowing what to do with themselves," Scheopf said, "We ask a lot of the sophomore class."

By next fall, NU hopes to give all freshmen on campus a mentor, including civilian students, according to Wallace.

The next focus, paralleling that of the CAM program, is advising, according to Schneider and Wallace. "Students are committed to Norwich and we need to be committed to them."

Many freshmen corps students leave early in the fall during rookdom, according to Wallace. "We want the decision to be rational," Wallace said. "The most important thing is to find out what isn't being fulfilled."

NU is in the process of creating an honors program, according to Schneider. The program will "academically challenge the brighter students and make it more rigorous for them," Schneider said. Planners hope to have the program in place by next year, according to Schneider.

With more upperclassmen staying, Norwich is planning a smaller freshmen class, of 400 rooks, in the fall of 2011.

"Norwich's main job is to set people up for success: whether it's going to military, police or some other service," Schoepf said.

As the regiment's executive officer, Schoepf doesn't want to just be, "some name that they (rooks) have to learn — I go out there and put my face at different events that they are at."

The relationships at NU are what keep the students here, according to Wallace. "It seems to be working," Flores, a freshman battalion executive officer said. "Retention is much higher than it was last year."

Student success is finding the best fit for each student, so that at the end of the day they feel supported by the institution and that they can be successful, according to Wallace. "We are one team, with one fight: to get students through this school," Schneider said.

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