Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Discusses Innovation, Student Success, and the iPASS Initiative at UTSA

August 11, 2016

by Rosalind Ong De Trevino at 6:18 AM in Campus CommunityGRIP, Student Info

Student success group discussion during the THECB site-visit.


The Office of Information Technology (OIT) hosted a UTSA site-visit from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) in August. Director of Innovation Tracey Armstrong, Ph.D. visited UTSA to discuss the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS) grant project currently underway at the university.

"Student success initiatives are a top priority for UTSA and initiatives like iPASS support campus wide efforts to help students graduate on time and in an efficient financial manner," said UTSA iPASS grant Principal Investigator (PI) and Assistant Vice Provost of IT, Vanessa Hammler Kenon Ed.D.

Texas Higher Education Strategic Plan

The iPASS project at UTSA was identified by Dr. Armstrong as an innovative higher education program which aligns with achieving several of the goals of the 60x30TX Higher Education Strategic Plan. The four goals striving to be met by the year 2030 are:

  • 60x30: at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 will have a certificate or degree.
  • Completion:  at least 550,000 students in that year will complete a certificate, associate, bachelor's, or masters from an institution of higher education in Texas.
  • Marketable skills: all graduates from Texas public institutions of higher education will have completed programs with identified marketable skills.
  • Student debt: undergraduate student loan debt will not exceed 60 percent of first-year wages for graduates of Texas public institutions.

(Left to right) THECB Director of Innovation Tracey Armstrong, Ph.D. and Senior Vice Provost for Institutional Effectiveness Sandy Welch, Ph.D.

Discussing Student Success and iPASS

Students, faculty, and staff from offices throughout UTSA came together for an insightful discussion on iPASS with Dr. Armstrong. The conversation included how UTSA became involved in iPASS and the various initiatives on campus that support student success (such as PIVOT for Academic Success). Furthermore, the group discussed the student, faculty, and staff response to the new advising changes, iPASS challenges and barriers experienced when implementing changes, lessons learned, and how this aligns with the UTSA 2020 Blueprint.  

Dr. Kenon stated, "Bringing a project like iPASS to full implementation for student success requires support from numerous areas working together as a team. UTSA faculty and staff, as well as student iPASS committee members, have continually shown their commitment to helping improve graduation rates."

iPASS is based on the need to transform advising, student support services and systems to increase student success and degree completion. The project focuses on three key student-facing functions:

  • Education Planning
  • Counseling and Coaching
  • Risk targeting and intervention

Advising and Technology

The iPASS project focuses on the integration of several systems to form a complete advising platform. UTSA is currently utilizing Ellucian DegreeWorks and will launch the Education Advisory Board's Student Success Collaborative Campus (SSC-Campus) in the fall of 2016. These two powerful products will change the advising culture at UTSA and provide advisors with tools to engage in more insightful, individualized sessions.

Directors for Academic Advising, Sylvia Mansour, and Monica Glover shared that over 120 advisors and advising staff have been trained in the new SSC-Campus platform. Mansour said, "Advisors are actively utilizing this platform to take a proactive approach in working with their assigned student caseload. We now have an efficient tool to easily identify special student groups and intervene in a timely manner supporting student success and graduation at UTSA." 

"It was a pleasure to share with Dr. Tracey Armstrong, from THECB, some of the current work UTSA advising is doing and will be doing with DegreeWorks and SSC-Campus.  She was able to see firsthand the training and commitment advisors have made to learning, embracing and using SSC-Campus to further support student success," said Executive Director of Advising Barbara Smith. The advising team at UTSA will continue training this coming fall with Brownbag Lunch Sessions which will allow them the opportunity for continued learning and discussing best practices related to SSC-Campus.

UTSA was one of 24 higher education institutions nationwide selected for the iPASS grant funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant is a collaboration of the Provost Office, Academic Advising, Institutional Research, and the Office of Information Technology at UTSA.




Academic advising team presents overview of the EAB SSC-Campus Campaigns training.

UTSA's iPASS Mission

The iPASS project is dedicated to enhancing student success at UTSA by engaging a campus-wide team to collaboratively establish a system that helps empower students and support staff, improving student interaction from orientation to graduation. Through communication, training, evaluation, and refinement, iPASS will create an adoption environment that fosters welcoming attitudes toward changes. As a grant-funded initiative, the iPASS project strives to improve and determine the best practices and solutions for the benefit of students. As an evergreen project, iPASS will continually evaluate implementations to determine opportunities for increased impact, change pathways to minimize shortcomings, and share data to help improve student graduation and retention rates nationwide.


For more information on

  • UTSA iPASS Initiative click here
  • THECB click here
  • DegreeWorks at UTSA click here
  • SSC-Campus click here