Academic Affairs Strategic Priorities

Retention and Completion Strategy Statement for 2021-22

Improving student retention and completion is a critical strategy of the Utah Board of Higher Education, Weber State University, and Academic Affairs. Within all colleges at WSU, efforts to increase retention and completion will be centered on all student populations, including those who are underrepresented, and focused primarily on the lifecycle of students from high-school to college admission to program completion to career path. Highly-engaged and timely recruiting (such as in concurrent enrollment courses) can improve retention and completion.

As you consider retention and completion strategies in 2021-22, please focus on the following:

Structure: College Success Teams:

Under the direction of the Provost’s Office, colleges will form College Success Teams, composed of faculty and staff, to work in partnership with Enrollment Services, MarComm, the Student Success Steering Committee, and others. Consider the work of Tim Renick in your department/college retention initiatives.

Recruiting: Outreach and Partner Engagement:

Building relationships with high schools, technical colleges, and 2-4 year colleges that can improve student transition from one institution to another thus preventing attrition before and even after admission to WSU. Advisors at our pipeline partners know how to help their students transfer to WSU but may not know how to help them transition to individual colleges and programs. In some cases, building relationships with junior high and middle schools and with underrepresented population groups will be necessary. Additionally, assisting students with formal handoffs from one WSU program or college to another may improve retention and completion.  Using CRM systems will assist in managing enrollment funnels toward matriculation.

Personal Student Engagement:

From first contact to graduation, personal engagement is necessary to meet the unique needs of students as they move through the academic lifecycle. We recognize that current staffing levels may not allow us to achieve the ideal level of engagement with every student. As such, and as a dual enrollment university in which access is a key element of our mission, meeting students “where they are” will require a personalized approach. Students, as peer mentors, can be an effective means of engagement. 

Timely Engagement:

Students have evolving needs and not all are met to their satisfaction. Examples of these needs may include timely: 

  • University and college first contact
  • Admissions and Advising 
  • Math & English placement
  • Registration & class scheduling
  • WDF prevention/intervention
  • Financial aid & scholarship awards
  • Program declaration
  • Concurrent Enrollment
  • Multicultural and diversity interaction
  • Tutoring services
  • Micro-credentials & stacking
  • Course syllabi and schedules
  • High-impact experiences 
  • Formative feedback from faculty
  • Graduate school exploration
  • Career exploration and engagement
  • Basic needs such as food, housing, child care, technology, & counseling.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Statement for 2021-22

Equity is the foundation of the new Weber State University’s strategic plan and a central component in fulfilling the mission of Academic Affairs. One of our key strategies is to create a more inclusive culture through initiatives designed to address equity gaps in outcomes, increase the number of historically excluded faculty, staff, and students, and curricular initiatives to promote increased awareness of social justice issues and prepare students to engage in a diverse world. 

As you plan your initiatives and work for the coming year, please consider the following:

  • Adopt strategies to attract and retain Black, Indigenous, people of color, and other historically excluded students, faculty, and staff, especially in ways that recognize the special responsibility of teaching in an open enrollment institution as well as the lived experience, values, and aspirations of our students. 
  • Disaggregate program and course data by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status (e.g. Pell eligibility) to learn more about potential inequities and barriers to success for underrepresented students. Consider, in particular, encouraging faculty members to individually examine disaggregated outcomes data in their courses and providing them the support and safety they need to reflect on their own practice. 
  • Adopt strategies that expand access to concurrent enrollment and other opportunities for underrepresented students to connect to WSU early. 
  • Adopt strategies that raise awareness and expand access to financial aid for underrepresented students. 
  • Adopt strategies that address structural barriers to student retention and completion, including curricular structures and pathways.
  • Expand professional development for faculty and staff in equity, diversity, and inclusive practices.
  • Expand professional development and support for faculty and staff in eliminating barriers of access and participation for students with disabilities.
  • Reward faculty and staff contributions to equity, diversity and inclusion strategic goals in annual reviews and promotion and tenure evaluations. 

Statement on Interdisciplinary Collaborations for SPR 2021

Weber State has made interdisciplinary learning a key priority for its academic programs. It is becoming abundantly clear that so many of the vexing problems and difficult questions our nation and our world face cannot be resolved with simple, one-dimensional answers. From poverty to global warming, political strife to disease, we, as a society and as a university, need to develop the ability to see these issues in all of their multi-faceted complexity. This will involve all of us learning to look at these problems from new angles, moving beyond the traditional limitations imposed by disciplinary boundaries. Developing such new habits of mind will foster the creativity necessary to tackle the many challenges we collectively face, and will prepare our students to succeed in a rapidly changing, and increasingly interconnected world.

To support the growth and vitality of interdisciplinary efforts on campus, we should:

  • Look for ways to strengthen the BIS program, increase its offerings through the creation of “designer” BIS tracks, revise its core courses and perhaps its requirements, and raise its profile across the campus and local community. 
  • Foster student success in the BIS program by creating classes and programs which offer a sense of belonging and which forge a cohort of interdisciplinary students, and which enhance opportunities for mentorship. We should also find ways to increase resources for BIS advising and make appropriate modifications to Cattracks.
  • Encourage faculty across campus to support BIS students in their programs and to remedy the fact that BIS students often are seen as less important to a department’s health than majors and minors. 
  • Consider the creation of an EDI track in BIS, similar to what the Interdisciplinary Studies program at the University of Central Florida offers. That institution has guided interested students to pursue topics that combine the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Sciences so that they are prepared to analyze subjects through the lens of race, gender, sexuality, and ability. 
  • Reinvigorate the internal and external advisory boards for the BIS program and the Office of Interdisciplinary Collaboration.
  • Find additional ways (beyond the BIS program) to support the development of new interdisciplinary courses and programs. That support might include 1) Colleges and Deans adopting a uniform policy of counting interdisciplinary courses as part of the normal teaching load; 2) Planning campus-wide events which highlight interdisciplinary research and teaching that is happening on campus, as well as nationally; 3) Seeking external support for interdisciplinary collaborations—from NEH grants designed to help offer humanities perspectives to STEM and other pre-professional students, to NSF grants that support work drawing on many fields.
  • Roll out the MOU that was created last year.  We need to publicize the MOU across campus and work closely with faculty, department chairs and deans interested in creating an interdisciplinary program/department.  
  • Work with existing interdisciplinary programs to establish formal MOUs for the programs using the template.  This will be an important step in helping us create some level of consistency across interdisciplinary programs.
  • Create a modified MOU for interdisciplinary, stand-alone courses.