Dec. 18, 2019 — In recognition of its efforts to support Texas higher education plan 60x30TX, UTSA has received a 2019 Star Award from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
The university was recognized with the award for its Resilience and Retention academic advising program, which offers personalized academic advising services to students who are at a high risk of leaving or being dismissed by the university as well as those who have been dismissed two or more times.
Over the past decade UTSA has launched a variety of programs and initiatives to boost student retention, persistence and success. Its goal is to achieve a six-year graduation rate of 60% by 2023. In 2019 the university reported a rise in six-year graduation rates, from 44.4% in 2018 to 50.8%.
The university launched the Resilience and Retention advising program in 2017.
—KAILYN ANTOINE, UTSA Student
“As a Hispanic-thriving, public research university, UTSA is committed to becoming a national model for student success,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, university provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “The Resilience and Retention advising program is a great example of the innovative, student-focused activities and programming that facilitate degree completion and that we must continue to develop to better support our Roadrunner students.”
The Resilience and Retention program helps UTSA students at risk of leaving or being dimissed by the university through intentional, proactive academic advising techniques. Advisers use empathetic language at mandatory monthly check-ins to build trust with students, who are required to sign a success agreement at their initial appointment. Additionally, the students commit to utilizing a minimum of two academic support resources available at the university. They are also encouraged to work with career services counselors as well as their retention program adviser to identify a “best fit” major and career path.
Students who have been denied entrance to their desired major are guided by UTSA’s Resilience and Retention advisers in choosing and transitioning to a new major in line with their chosen career field. Students attend three monthly 30-minute check-in appointments each fall and spring semester, complete four informational modules available via Blackboard Learn and conduct a self-assessment to determine whether they reached their academic goal for the semester. Once the students complete the program, they are transitioned to an assigned academic adviser specializing in their new degree plan.
When UTSA student Kailyn Antoine began school she was faced with family issues that took her mind off her studies and resulted in academic dismissal. After a year she returned to UTSA and began to visit academic advising once a month.
“It’s easy to think you are completely alone and the only one going through a difficult time while trying to balance school with life,” said Antoine. “I really thought I was the only one with these difficulties, and the academic adviser quickly assured me I was not. In fact, she also faced difficulties when she went through her college experience. She kept telling me once you begin something, you need to finish it. Her motivation combined with my determination helped me achieve what I really wanted.”
In its initial pilot the Resilience and Retention academic advising program demonstrated strong improvements in average GPA and semester-to-semester retention. For students who were exited from their desired program after failing a gateway course, UTSA has seen a decrease in the percentage for students who were ultimately dismissed from the university, from 30% in AY 2016–2017 down to 15% in AY 2017–2018, and in the same time period an increase in the percentage of students who were retained and admitted into another program, from 39% to 65%.
Also the first group of students served by the program, beginning in spring 2018, have seen an increase in average GPA, from 2.06 to 2.35 (as of spring 2019).
Additionally, as of spring 2019 various UTSA student groups improved their success rates:
“We recognize that each one of our students comes from a different background and faces different challenges when pursuing their degrees,” said Tammy Wyatt, vice provost of student success. “By working closely with our students and providing personalized interventions, our Resilience and Retention advisers have generated exceptional results in semester-to-semester retention and increased grade point average.”
Senior academic program adviser Michele Tencza added, “It is an honor to receive the 2019 THECB Star Award. We are proud to have the privilege of working alongside students who are at an academic crossroads.”
San Antonio’s largest public research university, UTSA is a Hispanic Serving Institution in one of the most diverse cities in the country. It was selected by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to receive the 2019 Star Award from among 45 nominations and 37 applications.
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