February 05, 2004

Student retention expert to visit, advise SIUC

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Faculty and staff at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are laying the groundwork for a teaching and learning center designed to enhance faculty development and student retention.

Lisa B. Peden, coordinator of Supplemental Instruction, and Nancy Hunter Pei, director of grants and contracts for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, secured a $28,700 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Strengthening Institutions program. The one-year grant may lead to a five-year, multimillion-dollar, federal grant that could finance a teaching and learning center.

Some of the grant funds will pay for members of a faculty-staff committee to travel to other universities to study successful teaching and learning centers. Larry H. Dietz, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, and John M. Dunn, provost and vice chancellor, put the committee together.

Grant funds also are helping to cover the costs of next week's visit to campus by Vincent Tinto, a nationally recognized expert in student retention. Tinto is distinguished university professor and chair of the higher education program in Syracuse University's School of Education.

Tinto will appear in three forums on Thursday, Feb. 12, and Friday, Feb. 13, speaking on "Building a Learning Community: Exploring the Link Between Learning and Student Success/Departure."

Here are the details:


Thursday, Feb. 12:


  • Understanding Student Departure and Student Success, 4-5:30 p.m., Student Center Auditorium. In this session, open to all members of the University community, Tinto will discuss his longitudinal model of student departure. His presentation will focus on ways each member of the campus community affects the learning environment.


Friday, Feb. 13:


  • Building a Learning Community, 9:30-11:30 a.m., Student Center Mississippi Room. This session is open to all faculty. Informal discussion will take place between 9:30 and 10 a.m., followed by Tinto's presentation from 10 to 11 a.m. There then will be an additional half hour for more informal discussion. Advance registration ensures adequate packets of material for participants. Call 618/453-2461 to make a reservation.


  • Out-of-Class Communities, 1-2 p.m., Trueblood Hall Eastmore Room. In this session open to all administrative/professional staff, Tinto will facilitate an informal discussion about the impact of extracurricular programs and activities on student success and retention.


Tinto is the author of the book "Leaving College," and his research on learning communities appears in the "Encyclopedia of Education" and "Higher Education in the United States: An Encyclopedia."

"We're delighted about the first chapter in what we hope will be a longer book about student retention," Dietz said, referring to the planning grant.

He noted that the University offers a variety of individualized programs that address student retention, ranging from supplemental instruction in the colleges of engineering, science and liberal arts to tutoring programs to the Center for Basic Skills, to name a few.

"What we're looking at here is an umbrella approach that may result in more of a first-, second-, third- and fourth-year experience, a more holistic approach that will address retention well beyond getting a person from one semester to the second," he said.

Another part of the equation is faculty development, putting programs in place that allow faculty members to "avail themselves of particular expertise or instructional aides that might help them facilitate learning," Dietz said.

"If we can get that dynamic working together all in one center where there is interaction, then all of that can spread throughout the entire organization and we can limit student attrition," he added.

The basis for the grant proposal was Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019. Establishing a center for teaching excellence, enhancing the culture of research and scholarship and shaping high-quality undergraduate programs are among the goals of Southern at 150.