September 14, 2012

Business college’s ‘STARS’ initiative highlighted

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A student success and retention program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s College of Business will soon be in the national spotlight.

Jill Gebke and Tabitha Stone will present a program entitled “Aligning the STARS -- Faculty, Advisement and Students Working Together to Achieve Academic Success in Student Retention,” at the National Academic Advisory Association conference, Oct. 4-7, in Nashville, Tenn.  The presentation will focus on the college’s Steps Toward Academic Responsibility and Success (STARS) program, instituted in fall 2011 as a re-admission and success initiative geared toward students with academic challenges. 

The rigorous but flexible retention program seeks to help students with suspended or probationary status successfully continue and complete their college education.  During the program’s pilot year in the College of Business, 27 students participated with an 85 percent completion rate and 70 percent retention rate.  Moreover, the retained students earned an average 3.18 GPA for the fall 2011 term.

College of Business students who demonstrate academic difficulties must apply for the STARS program as a condition of their entry or reentry.  The STARS application includes a personal statement and encourages students to identify causes for their academic shortcomings and areas in which they can improve.  Program admittance is based on the application and personal interviews. Students must also contractually agree to complete the program and meet its high standards, or risk having their suspension from the college and/or University reinstated.

Gebke, the director of enrollment management for the college, and Stone, the chief academic adviser, each say that STARS differs from other retention programs that focus on providing information and success strategies to students who may lack academic ability.  The STARS program recognizes students have met admission standards and demonstrated academic ability, but various other factors created difficulties in other areas of their college careers.

“The areas we have seen students in the STARS program struggle with the most fall into the realm of class attendance, homework completion, class preparation, financial difficulties or having too many commitments for their available time,” Gebke said.

STARS enables the College of Business to give students an integrated program of support and assistance involving numerous campus components including academic advisement, enrollment management, department chairs, faculty and student services.  Participating students, working with academic advisers, develop individualized plans for completing their degrees.  Department chairs and others within the college work with the students on an ongoing basis throughout the semester wrapping up with assessments and evaluations at the end of the semester.  Class attendance checks, academic reviews and check-ins are also part of the program. 

Gebke and Stone say the program is very adaptable to accommodate diverse student populations, including minorities and first-generation students.  The college receives about 40 applications from students seeking reentry after scholastic suspension each semester.