More than 130 faculty and staff members at Moraine Valley Community College gathered at the Palos Hills campus on May 18 and 19 to discuss innovative ideas regarding student retention. Over the last five years, enrollment at the college has decreased, leading administrators to “think outside the box” about ways to keep students from leaving before graduating.
Lower enrollment can be attributed to a few factors, some of which are out of the college’s control. An improved economy with more jobs lessens people’s need to return to school for new training or skills. District high schools also have smaller student bodies, which reduces the amount of graduates who would have been potential Moraine Valley students.
“Moraine Valley will determine its own future. Outside factors will not determine our future,” said Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, college president. “We are here to find out what we can do to help all of our students graduate. Accessibility, affordability, engagement, and excellence is what we are all about. We expect excellence from all of our students just like they expect excellence from all of us.”
Faculty and staff demonstrated that excellence throughout the two-day conference via presentations on five pilot projects currently underway that aim to help students succeed at the college. They include a tech competency initiative to ensure students have the technology skills to successfully navigate an online course; a mentoring program for high-risk students; simplifying the application process for admission to the college; creating a toolbox for faculty to use best practices in the classroom; and an early alert system that identifies students who may need intervention to graduate.
After hearing about each pilot project, attendees shared their thoughts and ideas during discussions at their tables. Someone from each table was asked to record every comment made on a laptop and then report to the group two ideas generated. Those ideas and suggestions will be considered for implementation over the next few years.
“Other colleges may have problems getting their staff to participate in conversations like this, but we are the opposite. People here want their voices heard, and all I can say is that’s Moraine Valley,” said Dr. Margaret Lehner, vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive assistant to the president as well as the conference chair. “We want students to be as successful as possible, and we need to be sure we have processes to help them do that. Our mission is to help them finish so they can enhance their life.”
Dr. Jenkins said some of the ideas will be easy to enact, while others will take resources. She believes the resources should go to the areas that will make the most difference to students. “We have the expertise on this campus, but we have to work together, and that’s what we did at the retention conference. We will continue the conversation that we started, and we will share what we have learned with others to better our students’ experiences,” said Dr. Jenkins.
Caption: Moraine Valley faculty and staff participate in a table discussion on innovative ways to keep students from leaving the college before graduating during the Retention Conference held May 18 and 19 at the Palos Hills campus.