Collaboration on Student Success at the iPASS Site-Visit with Achieving the Dream Organization

March 23, 2017

Leon Hill Presenting at IPASS Workshop

(Leon Hill presenting at the iPASS workshop.)

By Rosalind Ong de Trevino, Project Coordinator

The Office of Information Technology’s (OIT) Customer Relations and Communications team hosted a UTSA site-visit with Achieving the Dream (ATD) and Strategic Partnership Advisor Leon Hill. The site-visit also involved special guest from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Director of Innovation Tracey Armstrong, and the Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS) committee comprised of students, faculty, staff, and university leaders.

The visit was held in the OIT Learning Studio (BB 3.04.16) on March 15 &16 and was facilitated by Assistant Vice Provost of IT and iPASS Project Principal Investigator (PI) Vanessa Hammler Kenon, Ed.D. The visit was an opportunity to discuss the progress UTSA has made on advising reform and how the iPASS grant project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), supports those efforts.

UTSA was one of 24 higher education institutions nationwide selected for the iPASS grant. The grant is a collaboration of the Office of the Provost, Academic Advising, Institutional Research, and OIT at UTSA. The work on this project supports goals for the THECB 60x30 TX, the UT System Student Success, the UTSA Blueprint, the CLASS (Coordinated and Linked Approach to Student Success) initiative, and the OIT mission. The iPASS project involves introducing several advising tools including the Education Advisory Board’s (EAB’s) Student Success Collaborative Campus (SSC Campus), DegreeWorks, and mobile components.

iPASS Project Refinement

As part of the grant, UTSA receives support from the BMFG and its partners which include AtD, EDUCAUSE, rPK Group, and Coffey Consulting. Hill serves as a coach for the UTSA iPASS project and has provided consistent feedback over the three-year grant and also visits annually to meet with the team.

During the visit, Hill led the iPASS committee members through the process of identifying how far UTSA’s work toward improving the academic advising process and institutional culture at UTSA has come, changes encountered, and opportunities for growth.

Vanessa Kenon at IPASS Workshop

(Left to Right) Tracey Armstrong, Ph.D., Steve Wilkerson, Ph.D., Barbara Smith, Sylvia Mansour, and Vanessa Kenon, Ed.D., engaging in discussion.


Project Successes and Challenges

Dr. Kenon discussed the importance of communication including marketing and training, for successful implementation. OIT has supported advising reform at UTSA by assisting with these efforts by marketing the tools through various mediums including videos, elevator posters, information sessions, and tabling.

Executive Director of Advising Barbara Smith and Director of Advising Sylvia Mansour also shared successes including the increased usage of DegreeWorks by students. As of spring 2017, 80% of eligible students have locked degree plans to help them stay on-track toward graduation, an increase of 66% from spring 2016.

Next Steps for Student Success at UTSA

Over the next year, the iPASS team will focus on adding mobile components to the tools available to students at UTSA. The EAB’s GUIDE App will be piloted to freshmen later this year and both GUIDE and DegreeWorks components will be integrated into the UTSA Mobile App. To support this, the iPASS core team will collaborate, include students, and celebrate successes (wins) throughout the year.

Advising at UTSA has had many improvements, and although technology tools like SSC Campus and DegreeWorks played a large part, the adoption and success of advising reform can be attributed to the advisors at UTSA who work directly with students to help them reach their academic goals. Mansour stated, “With technology, we must not forget that we are human beings. None of this works without the advisors – we need to celebrate with them.”                            

For more information on:

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