Flight Plan sets out to increase freshman retention

Tennessee Tech is continuing its efforts to ensure that freshmen are consistently attending their classes through the Flight Path initiative. 

Flight Path was implemented in Fall 2013 and designed to combat chronic absenteeism. It is part of a larger effort by the university to improve retention. However, there is no conclusive data available to see whether or not this program is having the desired effect. 

“Regular and consistent attendance is so important, particularly for freshmen during their first semester, because that’s when students are developing the collegiate-level academic habits that will carry them through their college career,” said Melissa Irvin, director of Retention Services. 

Tech has enlisted the help of several offices in academic affairs and student services to be a part of this effort. The Residential Life Office plays a rather large role in flight path. It is the duty of the resident assistants to be aware of which of their students are freshmen and who is attending their classes. 

“I think that this program can really help improve retention. It is important to make sure the freshmen feel like they matter,” said Kim Biggs, RA in MS Cooper and Pinkerton hall. 

In addition to resident assistants, instructors also play a part in making sure this program runs smoothly.

“It has been deemed as the instructors’ responsibility for reporting student attendance,” said Allen Mullis, interim director of orientation and student success. “Instructors are sent reminders from the director of Retention Services, Dr. Melissa Irvin, on when to submit attendance to the attendance monitoring system.” 

“Primarily, attendance reports are requested from faculty teaching general education courses as well as any other 1000-level freshmen course,” said Irvin. 

Flight Path is not an academic policy for the University, so students’ financial aid will not be affected because of this program. 

“It is a student services initiative designed to help first-year students cultivate habits that are closely related to academic success in college,” said Irivin. “Tennessee Tech is fully invested in helping students to graduate in a major that supports their professional goals without excessive credit or debt. Flight Path is just one of the many ways TTU is investing in student success. 

“We want to make sure that freshmen don’t feel like they are one of 12,000,” said Biggs. “We want them to know that there is someone here who cares and takes value in them as a student.”