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Academic Affairs Newsletter

January 2024

First-Year Student Support and Retention


This year, the Provost Office will highlight focus areas in the Academic Affairs Newsletter to share goals and ongoing work. Thanks to the hard work of many, we start with the success story of first-year student support and retention.

  • The fall-to-fall retention rate has slowly been increasing over the past several years: 59.2% for first-time students in the 2022 cohort was 4.1% higher than the 2018 cohort.
  • The retention rate links to improved academic performance, with a higher percentage of the 2022 fall first-year cohort (76.2%) than the 2018 cohort (66.9%) earning a GPA above 2.2 in the fall semester.

A growing number of university resources and initiatives, including those from individual departments and colleges for first-year students, likely improved the academic performance and retention rate.

  • More college and Student Success Center advisors, including new Retention, Exploratory, and Transition advisors.
  • New first-year programs by colleges, departments and other units, including required advising, college-specific first-year classes, and peer mentor programs (the Department of Communication comments on achieving our 81.2% retention rate below).
  • More early alert flags raised in Starfish targeted students with appropriate support when needed.
  • Increase in first-year students receiving scholarship aid over the past five years.
  • Innovation of First Year Experience classes (FYE 1105) that engage and support students, promoting a sense of belonging.
  • Implementation of the chatbot, Ask Waldo, to answer student questions 24/7.
  • More learning community opportunities that provide coordinated classes for students based on their background, major or meta-major, or interests.
  • Corequisites and other courses that promote student academic success in developmental math and English curriculum and classes.
  • Mandatory orientation to help all students better understand Weber State's expectations, requirements, and resources.
  • Expanded forms of and opportunities for academic support through tutoring, supplemental instruction, learning assistants, and academic coaches.
Anne Bialowas

The Successful High Retention Rate


In addition to good teaching, strong student co-curricular activities, and many other efforts, the Department of Communication began an "advising week" held each semester when schedules become viewable for students before they register. During this week, faculty advisors email students to provide an overview of fundamental classes available and set up appointments.

Faculty also announce advising week and registration in Canvas. We also set up a table outside the department with donuts and other key announcements starting two years ago, which could have contributed to our retention success. Overall, we've found that reminding students it is time to plan and meet with an advisor early has built scheduling habits early and helped students hear that we really want them here.

Anne Bialowas, Chair of the Department of Communication

First-Year Student Support & Retention Team


Chaired by Deans Uman and Holliday and Vice Provost Amsel

Over the summer, the Provost and Deans created the First-Year Student Support and Retention team and proposed new ideas to improve first-year students’ academic achievement and success:

  • Proposal for mandatory Weber Welcomes supporting first-year students having appropriate first-semester schedules. We will implement the proposal in the fall of 2024
  • Proposal to designate first-year courses and provide students with additional support and faculty with training and funding
  • Proposal for First-year Seminars with intellectual themes, topics, or questions that embed relevant college skills

Academy of the First College Year


This past October, the Provost's Office further addressed improving first-year students’ academic achievement and success by sending a team of faculty, advisors, staff, and administrators to the academy sponsored by the John Gardner Institute. As a result, they produced a report reviewing resources and initiatives containing new insights into first-year students' challenges that we must still fully address. The report highlighted:

  • Disaggregated grade data for popular first-year courses shows their status as “first-year” was more strongly associated with higher DFWI rates than other background variables, suggesting the value of a coordinated first-year program for all students.
  • First-year students enrolling at WSU with six or fewer CE credits have poorer academic and student success outcomes, suggesting a need for a different first-year experience than other students.

The group's proposed goal is to create a more robust “first-year culture” where first-year students are more visible. Coordinated resources address their unique needs with first-year designated courses, FYE courses, first-year seminars, and learning communities with targeted academic student support.

Second Annual First-Year Summit


Friday, February 16, 2024, 11:30 am-1:30 pm in Ballrooms A-C

Building on the goal of creating a First Year Culture, the Second Annual First-Year Summit will provide opportunities for more detailed discussions of new proposals and initiatives in the context of other changes (e.g., in General Education, etc.) facing first-year students. We invite all faculty and staff to attend.

Summit website (Canvas) Register now

Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor Program


Nomination Deadline: Friday, February 9, 2024 | Nomination Criteria

The Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor program recognizes Weber State faculty demonstrating the highest quality teaching, scholarship, research and community service since 2006. Rodney and Carolyn Brady provided a generous gift to fund the honor. Rodney Brady served as president from 1978 to 1985.

The purpose of the Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor Program is to:

  • Provide prestigious recognition to outstanding Weber State faculty
  • Encourage teaching, scholarship and research of the highest quality
  • Assist in the recruitment and retention of exceptional faculty members
  • Provide funds so faculty can further their professional academic objectives

Email for more information.

John A. Lindquist Award


Nomination Deadline: Monday, January 29, 2024 | Nomination Criteria

The John A. Lindquist Award is given annually to a current Weber State University faculty or staff member who has demonstrated sustained and outstanding commitment to mentoring WSU students in learning through community engagement. It recognizes university-community partnerships in support of students’ learning and honors John A. Lindquist’s devotion to education and community.

Learning through community engagement is a dynamic and collaborative process wherein students immerse themselves in situational problems of a social, economic, or environmental nature. They consider possible outcomes and create potential solutions that benefit communities. As students apply their skills, knowledge, and research to community issues, they, in turn, develop civic leadership. Frequently, they are models of how education can improve and sustain the well-being of individuals in their communities.

The award is $8,000 cash (less benefits and withholding taxes).

Email Debi Larson to submit nomination letters.

Past Newsletters   Deans' Council Minutes