Year 2: Themes
Foster an intentional campus culture of community, engagement and inclusion to enhance the first-year experience for the success of all students.
University culture is a critical factor in shaping the experience of our first-year students. Fostering a culture that supports student engagement and learning generated extensive committee discussion and attention. Action items focused on culture were proposed by six Dimension Committees including Philosophy, Faculty, All Students, Roles and Purposes, Diversity, and Transitions. As represented in the following recommendations, committees focused on developing guiding statements along with supportive infrastructure, policies and practices aimed at enhancing the first year.
- Create and integrate a first-year philosophy statement that guides our approach to the first year and informs our institutional policies and practices
- Update the faculty evaluation and reward structure to reflect our priority on building a foundation for student engagement and learning in the first year that contributes to success throughout the undergraduate experience.
- Provide faculty, staff and teaching assistants with professional development opportunities focused on teaching, advising and mentoring first-year students.
- Develop and disseminate a diversity statement to communicate the University’s diversity vision and guide institutional policies and practices.
- Design and implement data-driven initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining a diverse student population.
- Design and implement data-driven initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and staff.
Ensure integration in experience across the campus community to maximize student success from application to graduation to career acquisition.
The University’s current approach to the first year involves a variety of success initiatives and assessment tools at the department, college and institutional levels. Underscoring the need for a more coordinated and intentionally designed first year experience for freshmen and transfer students, action items focused on Integration were proposed by five Dimension Committees including All Students, Organization, Improvement, Roles and Purposes, and Transitions as reflected in the following recommendations.
- Develop a centralized organizational unit to coordinate First-Year Experience activities for freshmen and transfer students, ensuring integrated deployment of student success tools campus-wide.
- Create an integrated one-stop web resource for first-year freshmen and transfer students.
- Streamline and coordinate Enrollment Services and Student Financial Services functions to facilitate effective and efficient processes for students and families.
Actualize and leverage consistent and effective communication tools to convey institutional academic expectations, outline administrative processes, and connect students, faculty and staff to university resources.
As indicated by reports submitted by the Improvement, Organization, Transitions and Roles and Purposes Dimension Committees, effective two-way communication with internal and external constituents is viewed as critical to building a foundation for first-year student success. Incorporating action items from these committees with Steering Committee discussion, the following recommendations focus on identifying communication needs, ensuring the delivery of timely and accurate information, and utilizing data to inform improvement efforts.
- Systematically implement valid assessments of student experience and establish campus-wide feedback mechanisms to facilitate collaborative continuous improvement.
- Provide updated relevant and accessible information, ensuring that our communications are responsive to the needs of prospective students, families and other external stakeholders.
- Develop interactive data-driven communication mechanisms to engage college faculty and staff in student recruitment, first-year experience preparation, and student success intervention delivery.
- Coordinate campus-wide web resources and supportive marketing materials that provide students with information and tools focused on success in the first-year.
Provide an enriched global earning environment that engenders students for lifelong learning.
Establishing a customized first-year experience that draws on faculty expertise and supports significant student-faculty collaboration throughout the learning process is critical to achieve learning goals supportive of student success throughout the undergraduate experience. As such, an intentional and coordinated first-year design that includes high quality academic components is needed. As reflected in the following recommendations, six Dimension Committees including Learning, Faculty, Roles and Purposes, Organization, Transitions and Diversity proposed action items focused on facilitating a foundational learning experience through early alerts, course innovations, a first-year seminar program and diversity curriculum.
- Develop an early alert system that provides first-year students with course performance and progress assessments and promptly connects them with resources needed to support academic success going forward.
- Facilitate the development and support of course innovations that allow departments to deliver high-impact teaching and engaged student learning in ways that are appropriate to their respective disciplines.
- Develop a vibrant and innovative first-year seminar program for students who are new to the University of Houston.
- Promote the inclusion of diversity components across undergraduate degree programs.
Create an advising model for delivery of a comprehensive, collaborative, supportive, and caring student service experience that promotes timely degree completion.
High quality academic advising is important for ensuring that students successfully transition to the university environment and it is critical that academic units provide consistent advising experiences. Demonstrating the pervasive impact of advising on first-year student experience and the widespread support for change, advising-related action items emerged from five dimension committees including Organization, Roles and Purposes, Transitions, Learning and All Students. Drawing on the final reports of these committees as well as Steering Committee discussions and assessments, the following recommendations focus on creating an institutional advising model as well as making associated infrastructure and student monitoring improvements.
- Develop and implement a best-practice institutional advising model focused on relationship building and goal attainment.
- Establish and implement structures and procedures to maintain effective staffing of academic advising positions, ensuring that selection, training, performance management and professional development systems support the institutional advising model.
- Facilitate increased student-faculty interaction through academic and career advising experiences.
- Expand the use of analytics, student monitoring tools and early alert technology enabling advisors to effectively detect and address barriers to timely degree progress.