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'Success Teams' Get Students on Track for Graduation

March 12, 2015

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CSUF President Mildred García addressed students, faculty and staff gathered for the recent opening of the College of Engineering and Computer Science's new Student Success Center: "We are here to help (students) achieve their academic goals and life dreams.”

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Senior Karen Hilva hoped to complete her degree program last year. But she was short credits and worried about her grade point average. Frustrated and discouraged, she was losing hope she would ever finish.

Hilva, a child and adolescent studies major and part-time preschool teacher, turned to her college's new student success team for help and guidance to navigate the system — and is now on track to earn her diploma in May.

Cal State Fullerton is following a national trend to increase the college graduation rate and has established student success teams aimed at providing students like Hilva with a range of support and advising services to help them move forward with their majors and graduate.

The goal of this ambitious advising effort — a collaboration between Academic and Student Affairs — is to increase graduation rates, improve student learning, reduce the time to earn a degree and narrow the achievement gap among underrepresented students. Since 2012-13, the University has increased its six-year graduation rate from 51.1 percent to 56 percent, with the goal of continuing to ensure students graduate in a timely manner.

The teams are still taking shape and are based in all eight colleges, as well as at the Irvine Campus and in Graduate Studies. Some of teams are housed in "one-stop-shop" college-based Student Success Centers.

"Students going through obstacles pertaining to graduation are always anxious, fearful and stressed out," said Hilva, who sought help from graduation specialist Mary Lehn-Mooney in the College of Health and Human Development. "Having a graduation specialist made that anxious fear develop into hopeful possibilities and alternative solutions. I don't think I'd be graduating this May without Mary's help."

This team approach features graduation specialists supporting juniors and seniors nearing graduation; retention specialists working with freshmen and sophomores to ensure they are making progress toward degree completion; and college career specialists assisting in career planning.

"When our diverse students come to our campus, we will help them along the way," said President Mildred García. "The graduation specialists, career specialists and retention specialists work collaboratively so that students know we care about them, and that we are here to help them achieve their academic goals and life dreams."

"Students are excited about having a common area to seek information about graduation requirements, career advising and personal development," explained Elizabeth Gomez, graduation specialist for the College of Engineering and Computer Science. "Students are telling me that this effort has been helpful and time saving."

One of the major benefits is that the teams provide students with access to information that integrates individual academic, career and personal development components, said Peter O. Nwosu, associate vice president for academic programs, whose department is coordinating the campuswide initiative.

A key element is mandatory academic advising for students who have earned 75 to 84 units, and for all students with undeclared majors.

"Already, the level of student participation in our initiatives across colleges and programs and the increase in the number of graduating students demonstrate the University's reaffirmed approach to student success," Nwosu said.




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