Student Success Network finds pilot success, expansion planned for Fall 2019

<p>GVL / Daniel Pacheco</p>

GVL / Daniel Pacheco

James Kilborn

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Following the pilot program’s implementation last year, organizers of Grand Valley State University’s Student Success Network are assessing its impacts before expanding the program to encompass all incoming first-year students. The program seeks to assist freshmen students, pairing them with faculty mentors invested in easing the transition to campus life at GVSU. 

Director of Faculty Initiatives for Student Success Brian Hatzel views the program as invaluable for the students it serves, as investing in their success not only assists them in their academic pursuits, but creates a campus environment where incoming students feel welcome. 

“We’ve learned that students benefit greatly from establishing relationships with faculty members and working directly with them from the start,” Hatzel said. “We regularly communicate with students in the Student Success Network and provide insights on what they should be thinking of or preparing for next and tools to enhance their experience. We’ve also discussed various time-sensitive necessities like filling out a FAFSA, navigating midterms and finals and what to think about as they plan their summer.”

Hatzel states that the program also assists students in scheduling classes for future semesters and ensuring degree requirements are met for their majors, a task that is often daunting for first-year students unfamiliar with navigating the course catalog. 

The program’s overall effectiveness can’t be assessed until the Fall 2019 census, when retention rates for first and second-year students will be made available. Hatzel states that while additional factors will be measured, the positive comments and experiences of current students within the program illustrate its effectiveness in enhancing student achievement. 

“An additional component that is more anecdotal is the fact that students have benefited in varied and numerous ways by having a direct connection to their faculty and student partners,” Hatzel said. “We’ve experienced a lot of positive comments from students in our programs when they are seeking assistance and don’t really know where else to go. While we hope to see changes in the aforementioned metrics, we also know that connecting with faculty members and having a supportive and informed resource enhances student success across the board.”

Beginning next fall, the program will expand to include all incoming freshmen. Hatzel sees the current pilot program as a means to improving the Student Success Network, allowing for faculty mentors and staff to become familiar and confident in their roles, as well as enabling them to better assist incoming students. 

“Next year we’ve been charged with rolling out this program to every entering first-year student,” Hatzel said. “That will take us from 1,300 students in this year’s pilot to over 4,000. This year, we’ve developed a curriculum and standardized much of our messaging. This pilot has allowed us to experiment with a few different mechanisms and we feel good about our next steps. We hope this program grows in its success and incoming students will be excited to learn of the built-in support they will be receiving from their very first day on campus.”

Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Suzeanne Benet said that the program may be expanded even further in the future, potentially serving all incoming students at GVSU every semester. These expansions in the Student Success Network represent an investment by GVSU, as the university sees the program as beneficial to incoming students, assisting them academically as well as helping them become a part of the campus community.