New Student Success Initiative Focuses on Newcomers, Seeks Name
April 17, 2017
A UT Dallas initiative aimed at boosting first-year students’ engagement and academic success needs a name, and UTD students, staff, faculty and alumni are invited to help.
The five-year quality enhancement plan (QEP) will be implemented in fall 2018. It will target undergraduate first-time-in-college students, new undergraduate transfer students, new graduate students and new international students.
Campus stakeholders are invited to submit recommendations at qep.utdallas.edu. A winner will be selected by the QEP Marketing Committee.
QEP topic proposals were evaluated by a committee formed in March 2016. The first-year-focused topic was chosen from five finalists, and President Richard C. Benson approved the committee’s selection in February.
“With the remarkable growth of UT Dallas’ student population, we must focus our efforts on ensuring all new students are recipients of focused engagement efforts. Getting first-year students fully engaged improves retention rates and ultimately leads to higher student success rates.”
The New Student Engagement Board will be created to coordinate campuswide efforts and build a New Student Web Portal as a hub for information and engagement opportunities. The first-year seminar will also be modified.
A mentoring program for transfer students will be created as an analogue to the freshman mentor program, as will a mandatory seminar for transfers.
The QEP process is a requirement for maintaining the University’s accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Accreditation is a benchmark that ensures the quality of educational institutions.
Dr. Jessica C. Murphy, an associate professor of literature at UT Dallas, led the QEP evaluation committee that selected the first-year plan.
“With the remarkable growth of UT Dallas’ student population, we must focus our efforts on ensuring all new students are recipients of focused engagement efforts,” Murphy said. “Getting first-year students fully engaged improves retention rates and ultimately leads to higher student success rates.”
Dr. Amanda Smith, associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, joined the committee as QEP co-director in early 2017.
“We’ve designed this plan to improve persistence and bolster engagement opportunities for students in their critical first year,” Smith said. “Our student demographics reflect the global diversity that you see in most modern workplaces. We aim to prepare students to engage successfully in that setting.”
Successful QEP components can become permanent fixtures at the University. In 2008, the University established a program called Gateways to Excellence in Math and Science (GEMS) as part of a QEP. It initially included group workshops, one-on-one tutoring and other strategies that boosted student success in courses such as chemistry, physics and math. The Gateways program was renamed the Student Success Center and has continued beyond its five-year initial timetable, providing students with added instruction and tutoring.