Learning villages, peer mentoring programs, and Week of Welcome are part of the reason Tech remains in first place within the Tennessee Board of Regents in retention rates.
When Governor Bredesen signed the “Complete College Act of 2010” in January 2010, TBR schools felt the push to raise retention rates once again. To make sure graduation rates increase rather than decline, schools must ensure that first-year freshmen return.
“The first few weeks a student is on campus is pivotal to their college career,” Dustin Rawls, director of Student Orientation and Registration, said. “If a student doesn’t immediately become plugged in, make friends, and have a positive experience on campus, the likelihood of them finishing their college career at the same university is cut almost in half.”
In 2006, Tech required incoming freshmen of every major to take a University 1020 class for the first time. The mandatory class serves as an introductory course for students and intends to help them form relationships with the professor and other students that were comfortable for them. The class proved effective and is still a required course to graduate.
“For us, SOAR is just as much about the parents as it is the students,” Rawls said. “If a parent isn’t comfortable with the campus, faculty, or learning environment, students are susceptible to the same feelings.
We try our very best to show parents just how well cared for their students will be here. The dean of students, Ed Boucher, goes as far as offering his home phone number to everyone.”
The 2010-2011 school year marked the beginning of Tech’s learning villages. Branching off of the same concept as the University 1020 class, the learning villages were formed to create groups within residence halls. Tech plans to grow the number of learning villages each year.
Being second in the state—behind The University of Tennessee at Knoxville— in retention rates comes with work. Tech shows that a campus must always be thinking be innovative ways to ensure students stay in school and graduate.