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University College News and Updates

From the Dean... What We Know About Student Success

The foremost goal of University College is to increase success of undergraduate students. For an entering student, the goal of earning a baccalaureate degree is the driving motivation for enrolling in college. One of the most important milestones along the way to earning a college degree is persistence from the 1st to second year. This is where we see the greatest attrition, or, where students are most likely to be slowed in their progress to graduation. This is reason for the attention given to "retention".

I am often asked about what we know about why students persist or leave the university where they start their undergraduate career. While we don't have perfect information that would allow us to predict who will leave or stay without error, we have many insights gleaned from statistical study of patterns. Patterns of persistence have been studied here at NAU as well as many other institutions across the country. There is sufficient consistency in the findings that adds to our confidence that we understand some of the more important factors influencing the likelihood that a student will persist from the first to second year of college.

Students are most likely to persist and succeed when:

  • they have a strong commitment to the goal of earning a degree at the institution entered, which is linked to plans beyond graduation
  • they are academically and socially successful
  • they make connections with peers, faculty and staff

NAU research and other university investigations have found that characteristics of students at entry affect the likelihood of persistence. It should be no surprise that students with stronger academic profiles (test scores, core high school grades) greater financial resources, women, and those from families and communities that have a higher level of college degree attainment are more likely to progress to the second year. However, when these and other factors are controlled statistically, there are a number of experiences in the first year of college that are associated with increases or decreases in the likelihood of retention. These are the factors the university has the opportunity to impact so as to increase the retention rate:

  • academic success ( indicated by GPA) in the first year
  • incidence and number of DFWs for first year courses
  • credits completed in the first year
  • number of contacts with academic advisors
  • taking a math course in the first year ( even if the grade outcome is a D or F)

In addition, the following programs have positive effects on grades, credits and/or DFWs, which influence retention:

  • Supplemental instruction and tutoring
  • STAR program
  • On-campus residence
  • NAU 100 and NAU 120
  • Learning communities
  • Honors
  • Student Support Services
  • Athletics

Students who leave report most frequently personal and financial reasons for leaving. We believe that to some extent these reasons are offered in place of acknowledgement of less than satisfactory academic performance, which is relative to expectations. We know from surveys of first year students that they (and likely their parents) have very high expectations for grades. With such high expectations, even average academic performance may be disappointing and provoke reconsideration of the value of investment in a residential educational experience.

The potential for university actions to increase retention is demonstrated by the substantial increase in student retention NAU has achieved through strategic and systematic efforts. The Flagstaff campus student retention rate has increased from 66% in 2000 to 76% for our most recent student cohort. This improvement is something to celebrate, but we have a ways to go toward our goal of 85%. Over the last two years, NAU has launched new programs and initiatives that have promise to further increase student success and retention. University College and EMSA are collaborating to conduct robust assessment of new and legacy programs and initiatives to enhance our understanding of how university practices impact student achievement and decisions.

University College programs and initiatives promote student academic achievement, strengthen student commitment to goals that increase the perceived value of NAU academic programs, and forge connections among students, faculty, staff and the local community. We collaborate with other academic areas and student affairs to impact the aspects of student experience that are factors in student success and retention. While we cannot control the personal and financial issues that loom large in student departures, we CAN mitigate their impact by influencing the value that students place on continuing with NAU for their education.

Karen Pugliesi, Dean University College

i.The three Arizona public universities operate with the same admission requirements. NAU admission requirements
ii. In this column I am simplifying complex statistical patterns that inform the efforts of University College.

University College continuing to support Collaboration, Integration and Celebration
Thank you to everyone who participated in the UC community conversation to discuss First Year Student Expectations and their Transition to NAU. The outpouring of collaborative efforts across campus with University College has been a bit humbling. Observing transition and support programs grow and work together to support students, seeing dedicated faculty integrate programing such as GPS to support student success as well as UC Faculty working together to create criteria and a process for UC faculty evaluation in Annual Review and Promotion and Tenure processes for UC Faculty Fellows and Affiliates is exciting to watch as we build University College and attempt to effectively align our efforts to enhance student success in the first year and beyond. CCC2NAU is nationally recognized as one of the most streamlined and practical community college/university transition programs. Academic Transition Programs - ATPs have evolved to address numerous consitutients across campus including athletes, International students and by continuing to provide first year students an opportunity to learn how to incorporate a growth mindset and develop transition and success skills offered to them through ATP programs. Liberal Studies is reviewing its program so that it can highlight how a liberal arts education not only adds value beyond the important disciplinary education provided at NAU, but also how it significantly contributes toward faculty and curriculum efforts to teach students important skills such as critical thinking, effective communication, problem solving, and creative thinking, all skills valued by employers and important for life long learning. In addition to our collaborative efforts with the Peak Performance Program and the Lumberjack Mathematics Center both spearheaded by CEFNS, these are just a few of our many collaborative activities across campus. I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about our collaborative efforts.

Cyndi Banks, Associate Dean University College
Academic Transition Programs - ATP
Academic Transition Programs (ATP) fosters first-year student success by facilitating student’s transition to NAU. Fall programming includes NAU 100: Transition to College and NAU 120: Study Skills and College Success. Both courses provide students with the necessary tools to develop academic and personal goals, locate resources, connect to faculty, staff, and peers, and createan overall successful and memorable college experience. NAU 100 is taught by undergraduate Peer Instructors who spend a semester learning how to teach the course and mentor first-year students. NAU 120 is taught by full time instructors, lecturers and graduate teaching assistants and includes peer coaches. The peer coaching component in NAU 120 is connected to the course content with the coaches attending all class sessions, facilitating class activities and meeting one-on-one with students each week for personal mentoring and follow-up.

ATP’s spring programming involves NAU 130: Back on Track. This course is intended to facilitate the academic success of first-year students on academic probation and uses the same course connected coaching model as NAU 120.

ATP is also responsible for NAU’s common reading experience, NAUreads. Through NAUreads, first-year students are all given a book that focuses on identity, global awareness, sustainability or diversity. They have opportunity to discuss the book in their NAU 120, NAU 100, ENG 105 courses and hear from the author personally.
Who are you are today? Who were you yesterday? How do others perceive you? How do you perceive yourself? Every day, person “A” wakes up in a different body, male or female, any ethnicity, any size, from any background. This is a story of discovering how we interact, accept and love each other, despite what we might look like on the outside.

We are pleased to present Every Day by David Levithan as the 2013 NAUreads books selection. This book encourages the students to think about what it means to be true to yourself and who they want to be as a student at Northern Arizona University. Readers will be challenged to think about their identity, relationships, values and goals.
Ro Haddon New Director of Liberal Studies

Liberal Studies: A Foundation for Every Discipline

According to a recent study conducted by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, employers today do not want graduates who have narrowed their education to just their discipline. The respondents indicated that they need employees with critical thinking ability, the ability to communicate effectively, work collaboratively in teams, manage change and prioritize events. These are all the essentials skills taught in our Liberal Studies Program. Learning only in the discipline is not the best career choice.

The new LS Director Ro Haddon and Liberal Studies Committee are refining information regarding the mission, goals, and critical skills underlying NAU's program. They are also working to better explain the importance of embedding a foundation of essential skills such as critical thinking, effective written and oral communication, and scientific and quantitative reasoning into all degree programs. Ro and the Liberal Studies Committee would welcome your participation and thoughts about the program at the Liberal Studies Townhall to be held 29 March from 9 – 11:45am at the Native American Cultural Center. For more information visit the Liberal Studies website.

Mathematics Implementing Innovative Programs

Peak Performance Program reaches out to incoming freshman

Peak Performance is an online summer mathematics program aimed at supporting incoming freshman to improve their math placement score. This program allows students to start their major program without being badly behind in their mathematics. Students are matched with a Math Coach who provides mathematics content support and “transition to campus” discussions during the summer.

Our Math Coaches have helped students achieve their goals. In the summer of 2012, 97% of the participating Peak Performance students who re-took the ALEKS exam improved their placement score (although not all of them moved up a placement level).

Our Math coaches are doing a great job of building “math confidence” and providing peer support.

What our students said: "Peak Performance was so helpful in teaching important math foundations that were very useful when I redid the ALEKS test. The appointments with my coach were great, easygoing, and I felt comfortable asking questions when I had them." – Joy

Peak Performance partners with the University College’s Academic Peer Leadership program in recruiting and training coaches and teams up with Gateway to provide our students the best support network possible.

Newly designed Lumberjack Mathematics Center

The Lumberjack Mathematics Center (LMC) is a new student space for learning mathematics located on the 4th floor of the Health and Learning Center (HLC). Students enrolled in MAT 100, MAT 108, and MAT 114 are learning mathematic by doing mathematics – a lot of mathematics. Research has shown that the essence of learning is doing, rather than passively listening. These course redesigns were made to provide individualized instruction to students, incorporate the appropriate use of technology, and offer students with immediate assistance when they need it.

Students come to scheduled class times and either work together on material or spend their time working through problems on one of the 203 computers. All students are required to spend time in the Open Lab where they receive immediate help when they are stuck either through the software itself or from one of the instructors, graduate teaching assistants, or undergraduate tutors. The LMC has Open Lab hours Monday through Thursday 9am – 9pm, Fridays 9am – 5pm and Sundays 2pm – 9pm, so students have many opportunities to get the help they need when it fits into their schedule.

The LMC will host an Open House Wednesday, April 3rd, 11am – 3pm on the 4th floor in HLC.
To find out more about the LMC, visit the web site: nau.edu/lmc

Collaboration for Enrollment

Priority and Early Enrollment

A collaborative effort between GSSC advising staff & UC technical group has resulted in the latest Priority Enrollment and Early Enrollment systems for our students. The new systems use web technology which supports the latest browsers, mobile devices and has been certified by NAU Disability Resources for the JAWS reader. Both of the new systems are seeing an improved usage from our students including a 19% mobile adoption for the Early Enrollment system that has been available since early February.

GPS and Action Center show continued growth and high lovels of use since the initial roll-outs

Additional Student Tools

  • The new, on-line Change of Major form revealed in LOUIE for students in catalog year 2012-13 and forward.
  • The updated 2013-14 Progression Plans roll out for students going through Priority Enrollment.
CCC2NAU - a Coconino Community College/NAU venture

"Coming to CCC first was better for me. I love living on campus and getting the NAU experience while taking classes at CCC."
Lauren Herd, Psychology major
CCC2NAU's 1000th student 


1,000th student joins CCC2NAU

CCC2NAU, a nationally recognized transition program, welcomed its 1,000 student this term. Begun in Fall 2008 as a joint collaboration by the presidents of CCC and NAU, the program has exploded from its initial cohort of 12 students.

Since CCC2NAU first started in fall 2008, the program served 1,171 students (excluding spring 2013 cohort).

Current cohort success rate is 95% (students retained in the program or transitioned to NAU). So far 18 CCC2NAU students graduated from NAU.

An analysis of retention and academic success of CCC2NAU students who have transitioned to the university is promising. CCC2NAU students transition to NAU with a higher grade point average than community college students who did not participate in the program. Once at NAU, they have greater success in the classroom and are more likely to be retained one and two years after enrolling at NAU than their counterparts who did not participate in the program. Because of its success, the program has garnered national awards for its innovative partnership and is being replicated at other institutions.

Students benefit from cross trained advisors and are issued ID cards for both campuses. CCC2NAU participants can also apply to live in the NAU dorms, buy a meal plan , purchase access to the recreation center and attend campus events. "I call it a dual citizenship," says Robin Long, Coordinator. "Students can dual enroll at NAU while completing their associate's degree at CCC and enjoy privileges at both institutions."

For program details, visit CCC2NAU's website


Innovative idea to meet student needs

Bachelor of University Studies

Research indicates that employers are seeking baccalaureate graduates with a breadth of preparation--a portfolio of competencies. Traditional degree programs at NAU may not meet the needs of all students. The Bachelor of University Studies (BUS) is intended to provide an alternative path to degree for students who desire a more flexible program of study to prepare them for careers not available through existing degree plans. This degree integrates prior learning with a multi-disciplinary approach designed to develop the competencies sought by employers across sectors of the economy. NAU benefits by providing flexible degree options that will likely increase rates of graduation and lower excess earned credits among students.

Students with 60 units or more and who learn that their current degree plan is not the best choice for them are typically challenged in fulfilling degree requirements and often leave NAU without a degree in search of other career paths. The BUS degree allows students with prior coursework to maximize application of earned credits and pursue a line of study in support of their career objectives. The option to pursue two minors in lieu of a single major, with an individualized minor option, creates the flexibility to maximize prior studies, focus on current interests related to career objectives, and/or maintain a breadth of interests without sacrificing academic rigor. Two students graduated with a B.U.S. Degree last December and 7 more are due to graduate in May, 2013.

BUS Students Graduating May 2013

  • Deanie Wingfield: Sociology and Humanities - this year's Outstanding Senior. 
  • David Abbott: Photography and Journalism. Currently works at NAU Marketing
  • Megan Button: Criminology & Criminal Justice and Business
  • Stacey Christen: Museum Studies and Individualized Minor
  • Michael Grover: Health Education and Biology
  • Robert Schellinger: Anthropology and Geographic Science & Community Planning
University College Community Conversation
On February 1st, the University College sponsored a Community Conversation entitled “Understanding First Year Student Expectations and their Transition to NAU”. This conversation, held at the Native American Cultural Center, focused on several characteristics and traits of typical incoming first year students. There were three short presentations given by four faculty from three different department followed by conversations at each table concerning questions each presentation raised.

Drs. Brian Beaudrie and Barbara Boschmans from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics began the Community Conversation by presenting “Making the Transition from High School to College”. This presentation discussed a several-year research project that the presenters had conducted. Included in the presentation were research findings on what characteristics students need to be successful in college, including Dr. David Conley’s “Four Key Dimensions of College Readiness” and “The Habits of Mind”, developed by Dr. Arthur Costa and Dr. Bena Kallick. The team had also provided the audience members with information from a web site at Southern Methodist University entitled “How is College Different from High School?” The presenters left the participants with the following question to discuss: “Knowing where our students are at when they enter as freshmen at NAU – how can we get them to the point where the research says they should be in order for them to be successful college students?”

Dr. Meliksah Demir presented information about the new period of life-span development called “emerging adulthood” (Arnett, 2000) and highlighted the characteristics of emerging adults. He first highlighted the findings showing that most freshmen do not consider themselves as adults. Next, he presented information about “feeling in-between”, a characteristic of emerging adults who are in the process of establishing their identities. According to research, having mixed feelings about adulthood and the search for identity could explain why it takes some college students an extra year or two to obtain a “four-year” degree. Finally, Dr. Demir presented information about reflective judgment (Perry, 1999). According to research, college freshmen represent dualistic thinking, which is the tendency to perceive problems or information presented in polarized terms. Learning about this tendency might help scholars teaching college freshmen to be more tolerant of the students when they resist considering or ignore the merits of other perspectives. The good news is that, according to research, first-year college students have the potential to overcome this limited cognitive quality and appreciate the value of competing views later in their education. Yet, as one participant highlighted, it remains to be seen whether taking certain courses during first year at college (First Year Seminars) might accelerate this process.

Dr. Rebecca Campbell concluded the presentations with a discussion of “Academic Transition Programs”. In it, she discussed how students transition into becoming self-regulated learners, i.e., students who take control of and evaluate their own learning and behavior. In order to help students achieve this, instructors must follow two principles: meet the students where they are, and foster a growth mindset. Fostering a growth mindset is based on the research of Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University. Dweck states that students oftentimes believe that their intelligence is fixed; something that is carved in stone and cannot be changed. However, if we as teachers can develop the growth mindset among our students (that intelligence is not fixed, that it can be developed, and that education and practice foster this development), then our students will become self-regulated learners and have a better chance of success in college.
UC Faculty Fellow Dr. Melikşah Demir Edits Oxford Handbook
The most comprehensive handbook on happiness, the Oxford Handbook of Happiness (edited by David, Boniwell,& Conley Ayers, 2013; 1,136 pages), was published early in 2013. Dr. Melikşah Demir was the section editor on Relationships and Happiness. Dr. Demir also has two chapters in the handbook. His chapter on friendship and happiness is one of the first empirical reviews of the topic in the literature. The coauthors of this chapter were former NAU graduate students, Haley Orthel and Adrian Andelin.
University Kudos & Updates
John Doherty and Kevin Ketchner will present "Blending the first year learning experience: Focus on student engagement," at The 2013 Teaching Professor Conference, May 31-June 2, 2013 in New Orleans, LA.

Zane Shewalter presented "Grade Performance Status (GPS): Shaping Student Success One Conversation at a Time" at the Heug/Alliance 13 Conference in Indianapolis, IN, March 2013.

Sharon Lovich and Jose Manuel Ramos Garcia, both at the Gateway Student Success Center, received a 2013 Classified Staff Peer Recognition Award.

CCC2NAU will benefit from a 2.5 million dollar Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant awarded to Coconino Community College (CCC). Eileen Mahoney authored the grant narrative and worked with CCC leadership to develop an implementation plan.

Lauren Berutich attended a three day intensive Professional Grant Development Workshop at Arizona State University, February 2013.

Cyndi Banks published both a book and a book chapter:
(April 2013). Youth, Crime and Justice. London & New York: Routledge.
(March 2013). “International comparisons and best practices in law enforcement ethics: Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Philippines”. in Fitch, B. D. (Ed.). Law enforcement ethics: Classic and contemporary challenges for the new millennium. pp. 347 – 384. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Bruce Fox, John Doherty, Ro Haddon, and Kevin Ketchner presented “Setting High Expectations in First Year Seminars to Foster Student Success” at the 25th International Conference on The First-Year Experience conference in Vancouver, BC.

  • Community Re-Engagement for Arizona Families, Transitions, and Sustainability (CRAFTS) is now a part of University College
  • Michelle Miller is joining UC fulltime in 13-14 as the CoDirector of FYLI and conducting research in SoTL
  • Ramona Doerry has joined University College as it's new Adminsitrative Associate
  • Kim Campbell is the UC representative on the Senate Taskforce on Faculty Evaluation and Student Successes.