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News

New Center for Student Success draws strong early response

October 31, 2013

The Center for Student Success, which brings together a renovated Office of Student Life and both advising and tutoring functions at Carthage, opened in the Todd Wehr Center in August 2013.

Early alert system helps prevent problems

In the first two months since the Center for Student Success became Carthage students’ one-stop shop for support, staff members assisted more than 700 of them.

“Students are responding to this call to be cared for,” said Gary Williams, director of the center.

Carthage President Gregory S. Woodward said the motivation behind the Center for Student Success, which officially opened in August, matches its name. When a student is observed having trouble academically, financially, or socially, a personalized plan is designed to help that student succeed.

“If we admit a student, that student and family place their trust in us. We’ll do everything possible to make that student a success at Carthage,” he said. “I have seen this process work dozens of times already, helping great students get back on track to become outstanding and vibrant members of our Carthage family.”

A team approach

The center now serves as the hub of student life. A freshly renovated space in the Todd Wehr Center brings together advisors, tutors, the College’s learning specialist, and the Office of Student Life (formerly Dean of Students Office). The center also provides virtual connections to resources in the Brainard Writing Center, Health and Counseling Center, and Office of the Registrar.

Gary Williams, director of the Center for Student SuccessGary Williams, director of the Center for Student Success“We don’t want students to leave with more questions,” Mr. Williams said. “They leave with an answer or a place to go for an answer.”

Months before construction began on the center’s physical location, Carthage administrators took steps to assess the roadblocks that some students faced. Using retention software built by Jenzabar, they crunched three years of data to identify common factors among those who dropped out. The resulting plan of action boosted retention between freshman and sophomore years by six percentage points.

The linchpin of the center is a new early alert system designed to identify students’ concerns before they become insurmountable obstacles. The software tool allows Mr. Williams and other designated staff members to spot patterns among the concerns shared by Carthage faculty and staff members.

“Rarely do students struggle with isolated issues. It’s helpful to have a system that captures information so we can make these interventions intentionally rather than relying on chance,” he said. “Plus, it helps us as administrators put better systems in place to influence the culture here.”

When concerns arise about a student’s academic, social, or financial well being, a hall director or other staff member who has established a level of trust with that student initiates a conversation. That often leads to a plan to address the specific concern, whether it’s missing classes or tuition payments or something else.

Not the principal’s office

Previously, some students felt the Office of Student Life (formerly the Dean of Students Office) was like their high school principal’s office — a place where they’re only called when they get into trouble. But Mr. Williams has noticed the addition of the Center for Student Success and its supportive atmosphere are softening that perception. Combined with easier access to the advising staff in the new, more central campus location, this proactive approach has boosted walk-in traffic.

“The students understand we’re not out to punish them,” he said. “Whatever we do is motivated by care.”

He said the early alert system was carefully researched to fit within all legal guidelines regarding confidentiality, including those laid out in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). But no such fears have been expressed, he said, noting that the overwhelming response from students has been positive.

Anyone in the Carthage community who believes a student’s success may be at risk is urged to contact the Center for Student Success. Students may email Mr. Williams at gwilliams@carthage.edu or call 262-551-2345. Faculty or staff members can submit an early alert through their My.Carthage account (download instructions).

Find links to common student resources and helpful videos at the center’s web page.