Inclusive student success has been and remains the top priority for Humboldt State University. We have had some notable successes, such as increasing the diversity of our student body and our faculty. However, we have been less successful in improving retention and graduation rates, and in narrowing the achievement gap. It has become clear that the incremental changes we have been making have not led to many of the results we want or, indeed, that our students deserve.
The time has come for a systematic review and reorganization of our efforts in both advising and student retention.
I have asked Provost Robert Snyder and Peg Blake, Vice President for Enrollment Management & Student Affairs, to lead this work. They have consulted broadly on campus, including with the University Senate, the Enrollment Management Working Group and the Strategic Planning Task Force. Based on that consultation, they have formed working groups to make recommendations for restructuring advising and for restructuring retention efforts.
These working groups will consider the roles and activities of dozens of units across campus. They will look at data and best practices, as well as opportunities for making an immediate impact. Each group will submit recommendations for action in the Fall of 2013 before the end of the Spring 2013 semester.
In order to be successful, it is important to coordinate this work. To that end, we will soon begin a search for an Associate Vice President for Retention & Inclusive Student Success, to report jointly to Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management & Student Affairs. That position will be responsible for oversight of the relevant areas and implementing the new plans.
I want to be clear that I have always been impressed by the dedication of staff and faculty across campus who have worked to address these challenges. I am inspired by the hard work and commitment of our student advisors, mentors and others who work so hard to help students succeed. In fact, it is fair to say that many of these individuals are responsible for focusing the University's attention on these important issues and for bringing about a more robust response.
Why is this effort so important? The basic statistics are as clear as they are troublesome. Our six-year graduation rate for students who start at HSU as freshmen matches our ten-year average of 42%, which is well below the CSU average of 51%. This year, our one-year retention rate for freshmen is 73%, again closely matching our ten-year average and well below the CSU average. For underrepresented minorities at HSU, the six-year graduation rate lags behind majority students by 13%.
What these data show is that despite our efforts, we are not making progress in these key areas. We need to do better, and I am confident that we as a campus community want to do better. This is a campus that cares deeply for our students. Looking ahead, I believe we should become a model for other rural universities.
My goal is to move quickly and to show measurable progress within the next year. I know that changes of this magnitude can be difficult and unsettling. We will need to ask hard questions, explore new ways of doing things, and be prepared to take on unfamiliar work. I ask that you engage in this process, however it relates to your specific work on campus, with an open mind and an understanding that it is in the best interest of current and future HSU students.
A full description of the two working groups and those serving on each are on the Provost's website at humboldt.edu/aavp (links on the left-hand navigation bar). If you would like to provide feedback or advice to either group, please feel free to contact any of the members, Provost Snyder or Vice President Blake.
Rollin C. Richmond