Increasing Student Success with Faculty Support

"Any initiative that will work must have the people with the real power--the academic power--who take ownership of the issue," according to Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III. Speaking at the 2nd Annual USF Student Success Conference on Nov. 3, 2011, Dr. Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), explained: "students can be supportive, and staff and administrators can be supportive, but unless you have some faculty—tenured faculty—who think it is an important issue, it still is peripheral. It only becomes mainstream when our prestigious faculty say this is an important issue for this university."


Dr. Hrabowski, who met last month with President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the White House to discuss college affordability and productivity, is one of the most influential education leaders in the country. Dr. Hrabowski argued that everybody benefits from a university-wide effort to help students graduate on time. “It is amazing to me how much more support you can get, not only from your state, but from other agencies. One of the reasons we’ve had such success [at UMBC] is that faculty, and I mean tenured researchers, have become owners of the issue of undergraduate student success.”


The challenge at USF, explained Dr. Julie Langford in her question to Dr. Hrabowski, is not getting faculty to buy-into the movement. The challenge is how to find the appropriate balance between publishing research and serving the needs and interests of our students. Student success and faculty success are mutually reinforcing initiatives. Paul Dosal, Vice Provost for Student Success, explained: "When our faculty succeed by publishing a scholarly book or article, we all succeed. We've done a tremendous job promoting faculty research and student success, and as we move forward, we have to link the two initiatives more directly. Faculty ownership of the initiative will be critical to our continued success."


The Student Success Conference, with equal representation of faculty, staff, and students, is evidence in itself of the increasing engagement of faculty. With the introduction of new Faculty Learning Communities by the Academy of Teaching and Learning Excellence, as well as efforts to redesign courses, USF faculty have already begun to take ownership of the student success initiative. Given Dr. Hrabowski's advice to the Student Success Conference, this development is aligned perfectly with proven best practices at other institutions, most notably UMBC. To see a video of Dr. Hrabowski’s speech, please visit the Office of Student Success’ current webpage. The video is located under the Presentations and Reports header.