On Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, The University of Texas at Austin’s Student Success Initiatives hosted its inaugural Student Success Symposium. Colleagues from across campus — including deans, associate deans, academic advisors, and student success program staff in UT’s colleges and schools — convened to celebrate recent graduation rate increases and learn about goals for the coming year. Guests also included student success professionals from Texas A&M University.
The conference-style symposium kicked off with Rachelle Hernandez, Senior Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, and Dr. Cassandre Alvarado, Executive Director of Student Success, discussing UT’s record-high four-year graduation rate. By August 2018, 69.8 percent of UT’s Class of 2018 had graduated in four years, up from 65.7 percent in 2017 and the highest four-year graduation rate of any public university in Texas. Hernandez and Alvarado also remarked on the continued goal of achieving a 70 percent four-year graduation rate — a campaign entitled 70ForAll. The continued focus on closing achievement gaps will sharpen the focus of the current student success goals of the campus.
“I’m extraordinarily proud of the efforts made by the entire campus community to focus on student success and improving graduation rates. I look forward to our continued efforts to support students, to close the graduation rate gaps, and to help our amazing students achieve their goals,” Alvarado said.
Diane Todd Sprague, Executive Director of Financial Aid, presented on the important role completion grants play in student success, after which guests were invited to attend two of six breakout sessions. Several breakout sessions were led by Student Success staff, including:
- Why Do Students Leave UT Austin?, presented by Dr. Emma Wu Dowd, Senior Research Coordinator, focused on current research about undergraduate students who decide to leave UT Austin before graduating and how the university can learn more about their experiences to make actionable recommendations for improved student retention and success.
- Uncovering Hidden Barriers to Student Success, presented by Kathy Uitvlugt, Associate Director, explored information on student perceptions of barriers to their success and facilitated a discussion where participants shared their ideas for removing these perceived barriers.
- And Technology-Enhanced Advising, presented by Jillian Kozlowski and Daniel Zarazua, Senior Academic Advisors, covered innovative approaches to fostering the advisor/advisee relationship and the technology needs of advising in the 21st century.
“We are fortunate to have an incredible community of Student Success Champions. This symposium allows us to come together to focus on ways we can improve outcomes for all students,” Alvarado added.