Illinois university’s orientation class improves retention
CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Southern Illinois University in Carbondale is starting to make strides toward improving retention through a program that offers freshmen a special orientation aimed at getting them acquainted with college life.
The Saluki Success Program covers study habits, mental health awareness, sexual consent and cultural sensitivity, The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reported.
Individual colleges and departments previously gave students their introduction to the university, but the classes varied and didn’t cover important life skills that students need to succeed, said Saluki Success Program Coordinator Nick Weshinskey.
Weshinskey launched the program in 2015 to standardize the orientation process for freshman. The class now has four dedicated instructors who teach more than 200 students a semester.
Weshinskey said instructors mingle with students and enjoy connecting with them.
″(Instructors) eat with students in the dining hall. They’ve had, so far this semester, about 700 one-on-one visits with students in their offices,” Weshinskey said.
The school said early data show the program is making a positive impact on student retention and success. The university saw its freshman retention rate increase to around 71 percent in 2017.
There was also improvement for provisionally admitted students who come in below the university’s academic standards. About 100 students fit the designation each year.
“These are people who, we look at their applications and their stories, and the university decides we want to take a chance on them,” Weshinskey said.
Just over half of provisionally admitted students in 2015 finished their first fall semester in good academic standing, the university said. In 2017, 83 percent of provisionally enrolled students finished in good academic standing.
Students who took the course say it taught them about campus resources, helped them adjust to college life and were taught by instructors who cared about their success.
Weshinskey said he believes students persevere and succeed when they feel supported.
Information from: Southern Illinoisan, http://www.southernillinoisan.com