Developing and Sustaining Student Success Initiatives: UTSA BMFG iPASS and NIC Site Visit

{May} {16}, {2018}

a group of people sitting at a large table listening to a speaker.

(Attendees engage in student success discussions.)


Written by: Rosalind Ong, Project Coordinator


The Office of Information Technology’s (OIT) Customer Relations Communications and Training (CRCT) team hosted the two-day UTSA Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS) and Network Improvement Communities (NIC) Site-Visit with Achieving the Dream (ATD). The site-visit also featured a special guest from the NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, Assistant Vice President for Strategy and Practice Omari Burnside, and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Director of Innovation Tracey Armstrong.

UTSA is one of 24 higher education institutions nationwide selected for the iPASS grant. The visit, held at the UTSA main campus May 10 and May 11, was an opportunity to discuss the progress UTSA has made throughout the duration of the iPASS grant and brought together students, faculty, staff and university leadership to discuss student success initiatives at UTSA. The grant is a collaboration of the Office of the Provost, Academic Advising, Institutional Research, and OIT at UTSA.

The staff represented various departments including:

  • Academic Advising
  • Institutional Research
  • The Office of Information Technology (OIT)
  • The Provost Office
  • The Office of P-20 Initiatives
  • First-Year Experience (FYE)
  • The Graduate School
  • The Office of Sponsored Project Administration (OSPA)
  • Office of Research Support (ORS)

Leon Hill, Strategic Data and Technology Coach from ATD served as the facilitator for the event and led participants through exercises, which examined critical components to student success including clearly defined goals, a culture of evidence, communicating for sustained buy-in, and creating and sharing our vision.


A speaker standing up in a classroom full of people.

(Leon Hill facilitates activities during the site visit.)


Project Successes and Challenges

Hill and Assistant Vice Provost for IT and iPASS Project Principal Investigator Vanessa Hammler Kenon, Ed.D., shared the achievements the iPASS grant project has contributed to since it began in 2015. These included directly supporting student success technology such as:

  • Degree Works Reimplementation & Marketing Campaign
  • UTSA Mobile App Student Success Tool Integration
  • EAB SSC Campus Training Support
  • EAB Guide App Marketing & Training Support
  • UTSA Advising Website Collaboration & Development
  • CIVITAS Schedule Builder Launch

In addition, Dr. Kenon reviewed the training, as well as publication and presentation opportunities that the grant project has provided. UTSA has leveraged these opportunities to share our experience nationwide to improve best practices in implementing advising and student success technology.

The event also provided a forum for the committee to discuss challenges they faced or were facing and how they could be overcome. This led to breakthroughs including one salient point which is, to continue to do this work well, we need to be open to approaching any department which is needed to partner in solutions.

Student Success at UTSA: Culture of Evidence

Director of Reporting Brian Cordeau guided attendees through interactive dashboards created by his team that visually displayed information on UTSA retention and graduation rates. Cordeau also showed how the information could be disaggregated to show specific populations by specific demographics such as gender, ethnicity, and enrollment status.


seven people sitting at a table looking at a large screen

(Brian Cordeau provides data insights on retention and graduation.)


OIT Project Coordinator and iPASS lead Rosalind Ong reviewed information from the university’s student success taskforce to help provide a foundation for discussions on sustainability for initiatives. This included our definition of student success as well as our short and long-term goals.

Interim Associate Vice President for Student Advising and Support Angelica Barrera and Executive Director of Academic Advising Barbara Smith provided data on several advising goals including caseload review, academic warning/academic probation caseload review, outreach to non-registered students. Academic Advising achieved their goals with all measures reaching or almost reaching 100%. Additionally, they reviewed how satisfaction (as measured using an exit survey following advising sessions) has increased among students. In all factors measured, satisfaction is above 90%.

Next Steps for Student Success at UTSA

Beyond student success technology, the conversation over the two-day site visit explored the need to look at sub populations of students and ensure that improvements are being seen by populations across the board and not necessarily one segment. There are several student success projects underway and in development including the complete launch of Civitas schedule builder. Projects such as these ensure that we are delivering tools to meet the needs of our students and empower them to as they navigate their college path.


For more information on:

  • UTSA iPASS Initiative, click here
  • Achieving the Dream, click here
  • THECB, click here
  • NASPA, click here