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UTSA CLASS student success initiative earns $3.6 million from UT System

UTSA CLASS student success initiative earns $3.6 million from UT System

(July 5, 2017) -- The Coordinated and Linked Approaches to Student Success Initiative (CLASS), begun by the UTSA Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs last fall, recently earned significant support from the University of Texas System. Two CLASS programs — Math Emporium Model and Project LEAD — were awarded just over $3.6 million from UT System through a request for proposals for its Quantum Leap on Student Success, a key part of the Quantum Leaps to provide Texans with the very best in higher education, research and health care.

“We are so grateful to UT System for its support of CLASS and our vision to enhance student success at UTSA, said C. Mauli Agrawal, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This funding provides a momentous boost to these initiatives to better serve our undergraduates, prepare them for academic success and dramatically enhance graduation rates.”

UTSA is one of five UT System institutions to earn funding through the competitive selection process. UT System received 14 proposals with funding requests totaling $21 million. Each proposal was reviewed by higher education experts external to the UT System and Texas, as well as by UT System leaders.

“The two UTSA proposals were outstanding and exciting to all the external and internal reviewers,” said Rebecca Karoff, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs for UT System. “The Student Success Quantum Leap was intentionally designed to allow for innovation and risk-taking in order to make improvement on retention and graduation. With these two exemplary projects, UTSA is poised to take a prominent role in accomplishing that mission. And the university is doing this in a way that focuses on meeting their students where they are, and helping them understand that they belong — and can succeed — in college.” 

The Math Emporium Model proposal was awarded its full funding request of $2,972,077. The funding will allow UTSA to scale a pilot emporium model program to include by 2019-2020 all sections of three core courses for pre-STEM and pre-Business students: MAT 1073 (Algebra for Science and Engineering Majors), MAT 1093 (Precalculus), and MAT 1033 (Algebra with Calculus for Business Majors).

In emporium model courses, students attend only a limited number of lectures; remaining instruction takes place in an engaged-learning computer lab environment where they can learn at their own pace or in small groups, with support from instructors and peer tutors.

In summer 2016, UTSA piloted an emporium math model for one section of MAT 1073 with successful results: 67 percent of students in the emporium model course earned either an A or B, compared to 14 percent in a non-emporium model course. The pilot was expanded to four sections of MAT 1073 in fall 2016 and again showed positive results: 46 percent of students in the emporium model classes earned an A or B, compared to 33 percent for the non-emporium model classes.

“Math readiness frequently poses a challenge to college students,” said Rhonda Gonzales, associate vice provost for strategic initiatives. “Particularly for UTSA students enrolled in the Colleges of Sciences, Engineering and Business, we know from our own institutional research that earning an A or B in their first college math course is critical in increasing their success in subsequent math courses and in persisting in their chosen major.”

“The Math Emporium Model represents the first significant pedagogical shift in how core curriculum math is taught at UTSA,” said Sandy Norman, chair of the Department of Mathematics. “Based on the results of our own pilots, as well as the success of other schools who have implemented emporium models, we are very excited to expand this program for the benefit of all our students who choose STEM and business-related majors.”

The goal is for the Math Emporium program to reach full capacity by 2019-2020, and potentially serve as many as 5,600 students per year.

The $2.97 million Quantum Leap funding for the program will be used primarily to fund salaries for full-time staff, including two course coordinators, three program managers, a software systems specialist and a lab administrative associate, as well as a number of part-time student tutors and lab assistants. UTSA will provide in-kind support for math lab facilities and computers, and is currently seeking funding to construct a 7,500-square-foot dedicated Emporium Math Lab.

The second UTSA proposal, Project LEAD (Leadership, Engagement, Academics and Dedication), was fully funded at $635,909. An onboarding and bridging program, Project LEAD aims to increase student success and retention by creating targeted programming for academically at-risk students at early stages of their academic career. LEAD I will target incoming freshmen admitted to UTSA by holistic review, while students on academic probation or warning at the conclusion of their first year will be the focus of LEAD II.

LEAD I participants will take part in a summer academy, in which they will enroll in two core classes together and participate in engagement programming and peer mentoring. Additionally, they will receive proactive academic advising and financial aid advising.

LEAD II participants will also take part in a summer academy that includes one three-hour course identified to help improve their GPA and a student success seminar. LEAD II participants will also benefit from continued peer mentoring, proactive academic advising and financial advising, and engagement programming.

A LEAD Summer Academy is being piloted at UTSA this summer with a small cohort of incoming first-year students who have registered to take classes in the second five-week summer session, July 7–August 12. LEAD II programming will launch in summer 2018. Both programs aim to serve approximately 250 students in 2018 and scale up to a full capacity of 400 students by 2019.

“LEAD will help new Roadrunners get off to a strong start and provide extra support to those students who need it after their first year,” said Tammy Wyatt, associate vice provost for student success. “A student’s early academic performance can impact their financial aid availability and admission into selective degree programs, not to mention their overall sense of belonging in college. Universities that have implemented onboarding and bridging programs similar to LEAD have shown positive impact on participants’ GPAs, as well as retention and graduation rates.”

Funding for Project LEAD will be used primarily for salaries, including two full-time staff and part-time student peer leaders.

The UT System allocated $10 million as part of the Student Success Quantum Leap RFP, of which $8.2 million is being used to fund selected projects system-wide. In addition to these projects, UT System designated nearly $1.7 million to establish a Graduation Help Desk at UTSA and other system institutions. UTSA will receive approximately $215,000 to support staff hiring and infrastructure development to create the Graduation Help Desk, a one-stop resource for students who need assistance getting classes required to graduate on time or resolving other roadblocks to timely graduation.

The CLASS Initiative was created by Agrawal in fall 2016 to develop strategies in six areas related to student success: first-year experience programming; academic advising services; focused academic support programs; financial assistance offerings; leadership and professional development; and onboarding practices. The goals of CLASS are to increase first-year retention of Roadrunner students from 76 percent to 85 percent in five years, and to improve graduation rates from 38 percent to 60 percent, within 10 years.

- Rebecca Luther

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