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Fisher Team Engaged in Student Success Program

June 24, 2019

In August 2018, St. John Fisher College began participating in the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education’s Gateways to Completion Program.

From left to right: Jonelle Mattiaco, Monica Litzenburger, Ed Freeman, Liz LaChance, Clair Smith, Kristin Picardo, Andrea Giordano, Jiayan Li, Michelle Erklenz-Watts

After working with the Institute to find ways to enhance the College’s First Year Experience in 2011, Fisher has now reengaged with the organization to develop a plan that will increase student success in high impact courses.

Dr. Michelle Erklenz-Watts, director of academic student support and associate professor of education, said that as a participant in the three-year Gateways program, Fisher will have the opportunity to examine student success through a micro and macro lens.

“We’ll be asking ourselves, could we make enhancements to the classroom experience, as well as the College’s approach to student success, that will impact students positively?” she explained. “By being part of the program, we are provided prompts that push our thinking about best practices in education. These kinds of prompts—with the dedicated time to think and talk with colleagues—are huge benefits.”

The Fisher team has engaged in a deep-dive into 10 years of course data to assess a variety of factors that impact student success. For example, does a course’s time of day impact student success? Or the year in which a particular course is taken?

To advance their work, Erklenz-Watts, along with a team of faculty, including Monica Litzenburger, Clair Smith, Ed Freeman, Jonelle Mattiaco, Kristin Picardo, Nahyr Rovira-Figueroa, Andrea Giordano, and Jiayan Li, as well as Liz LaChance from the College’s Office of Institutional Research, traveled to a conference this spring to hear from student success specialists, teaching and learning experts, and institutional leaders. At the conference, they learned about early warning systems, academic help labs, and cross-functional teaching, faculty development, and curriculum design, among other topics.

Over the next two years, the team will develop and revise specific initiatives to increase student success, implement those plans, and closely monitor the impact of each.