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Degree Completion Challenge winners

Two ideas about how to help students reach the finish line—one from the College of Social and Behavioral Science and the other composed of a cross-campus team—rose to the top in the Degree Completion Challenge.

Two ideas about how to help students reach the finish line—one from the College of Social and Behavioral Science and the other composed of a cross-campus team—rose to the top in the Degree Completion Challenge.

The U has made remarkable strides in its graduation rate, which reached 70 percent in 2018. That’s up 15 percentage points over the past eight years and positions the U as one of two public research universities in the country to have achieved such gains in that time.

The challenge, an initiative of the Office of Academic Affairs, asked campus community members to come up with innovative ideas on how to push the rate higher. Students, faculty and staff submitted ideas that ranged from helping students hurdle financial barriers, overcome academic challenges, settle on a major sooner and achieve a sense of belonging on campus.

Both challenge winners will work on developing and implementing their ideas over the next academic year.

Academic Success and Completion Enhancement

The College of Social and Behavioral Science (CSBS) will receive $80,000 to implement the Academic Success and Completion Enhancement program—CSBS ASCENT—to improve undergraduate student success in attaining a degree. Its team is led by Cathleen Zick, acting dean; Bobbi Davis, director of CSBS Student Services; and Megan Tippets, a graduate assistant.

This innovative intervention uses insights from behavioral economics and data gleaned from the Student Data Warehouse and Civitas Illume that help pinpoint students at risk of faltering in their educations.

The program will combine a text‐based communication plan with course registration events to identify and assist students at greatest risk of falling off track. The messaging and registration events will be designed to reduce the complexity of navigating academic life; enhance academic decision-making by nudging students to participate in a course registration event; and build students’ sense of community in the college and, more broadly, at the U.

CSBS is one of the three largest colleges at the U, with nearly 4,000 undergraduates, counting primary and non-primary majors. This pilot initiative will have adequate statistical power to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the intervention and, if successful, will immediately help advance the U’s persistence profile and its six-year graduation rate.

My Exceptional Education Experience System—ME3S

A team led by Jim Agutter will receive $20,000 for its My Exceptional Education Experience System (ME3S) idea. Other members of the ME3S team are: Ann Darling, Barb Iannuci, Kelsey Loizos, Brandon Marshall, Robyn Moreno, Beth Howard, John Nilsson, Rachel Sheedy, Lyndi Duff, John Thomas and Cory Stokes.

Currently, the information that helps students make decisions and track their progress is only available via an advisor or from different interfaces and systems such as Major Maps, My Degree dashboard and portfolios. Students often struggle to navigate and connect the institutions’ siloed, disparate academic and co-curricular opportunities.

ME3S is based on and expands the reach of the Plan 2 Finish initiative that has reduced time to graduation across the institution. It also builds on the successful paper-based Major Maps, which chart a holistic and more complete educational experience by combining a road map for timing, key pillars of the student experience, academic, co-curricular and student support services information along with career outcomes and post-degree pathways.

ME3S creates a universal, one-stop digital tool to help students identify, plan, navigate and summarize their exceptional educational experience at the U. It incorporates features from the Major Maps, degree plans, degree audits and co-curricular information in an intuitive interface.

Combining these features in a single, accessible digital platform will allow students to seamlessly make informed decisions about their coursework and major choice, encourage integration of complementary experiences and drive engagement at opportune moments as they pursue a degree.