University of the Cumberlands (UC) was recently recognized by Skyfactor Mapworks for the University’s efforts to improve retention and meet first-year students’ needs as they transition from high school to college.
“We take a very hands-on and collaborative approach to working with first-year students at UC,” said Dr. Emily Coleman, Vice President for Student Services. “We have a team of professionals who work year round, reaching out to students and collaborating with faculty and other campus offices to ensure student needs are met.”
At UC, more than 50 percent of first-year students are the first in their families to attend college. As these students adjust to their new environment, many balance part-time jobs and athletic training schedules in addition to their school work. In response, UC has initiated several retention strategies in the past few years to accommodate their needs.
The University keeps students engaged with events sponsored by the Campus Activities Board and prepares them for their next step in life through the Career Service Program, as well as providing free counseling services to all students through the University’s School of Counseling. Encouraged to meet with academic advisors and mentors throughout their academic careers at UC, all incoming students will now also be paired with upperclassmen who are trained in first-year student transition needs through the Peer Leader Program.
“These resources are critical to student success,” Coleman said. “By providing support services that help students articulate career goals, address time management, and encourage campus involvement, we not only help the students while they are here, but we also help prepare them for their future.”
UC’s retention strategies recently earned the University a Mapworks Excellence Award from Skyfactor Mapworks, an organization dedicated to providing retention data and tools.
This year, the organization recognized only two universities nationwide for their successful implementation of Mapworks data in pinpointing possible risk factors among students. Since the University began working with Mapworks in 2014, UC has worked to strengthen mentorships between first-year students and their academic advisors in addition to integrating transition surveys and expanding points of contact for student engagement.
“Through Mapworks, we are able to have a clearer understanding of who our students are as a group, thus helping us to develop innovative support programming like our ACCESS mentoring program for first-semester student athletes,” said Dr. Tom Fish, UC’s Dean of Retention and Mapworks Coordinator.
By implementing Mapworks tools and data, along with providing the aforementioned services geared toward student success, UC has seen return rates for transition and check-up surveys reach 90 and 70 percent, respectively, among first-year students, as well as improved academic performance and increased retention over the past three years for at-risk students.
“Recognizing and responding to the challenges first-year students face are natural extensions of the University’s mission to offer promising students of all backgrounds the opportunity for a quality baccalaureate education,” Fish said.
Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction offering quality undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and online degree programs. Learn more at ucumberlands.edu.