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MUW to use $1.5M grant to improve student retention

 

Mississippi University for Women professor Bridget Pieschel, right, advises junior creative writing major Ellie Cromwell Wednesday afternoon in Painter Hall. MUW received a $1.5 million grant last month to improve and strengthen the advising process.

Mississippi University for Women professor Bridget Pieschel, right, advises junior creative writing major Ellie Cromwell Wednesday afternoon in Painter Hall. MUW received a $1.5 million grant last month to improve and strengthen the advising process. Photo by: Mary Pollitz/Dispatch Staff

 

David Brooking

David Brooking

 

Nora Miller

Nora Miller

 

 

Mary Pollitz

 

 

In an effort to make student advising more efficient, Mississippi University for Women will use a $1.5 million grant to purchase a new advising software for students.  

 

MUW received the Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education in September. David Brooking, director of the MUW student success center, applied for the grant, which will take place over the next five years, to help boost student retention and graduation rates.  

 

The university's 2017 graduation rate, which measured how many from the university's incoming freshman class of 2011 graduated from the W over the next six years, was 44.3 percent. 

 

"We can always do better with our student retention," Brooking said. "Our graduation rates are strong, but we can always improve." 

 

Brooking said advising will largely remain the same at the university, but the grant will help implement an advising software, DegreeWorks, over the course of the next few years.  

 

MUW President Nora Miller said the advising program has been on the university's radar for nearly a decade, but resources to purchase and implement it had been an issue.  

 

"We've been wanting this for the past nine years, and it's pretty expensive," Miller said. "The implementation is going to be a lengthy process and we didn't have the manpower to do this. But this will allow us to hire someone. This is a real game-changer and I'm just thrilled."  

 

Brooking said the software will allow students to see their path to graduation currently, as well as if a student decides to change majors. Typically, if a student wanted to switch majors, Brooking said the process of figuring out which classes are needed to graduate could take a while. But, with the new software, students can gauge their graduation targets immediately. 

 

"We're not going to see a big upheaval in student advising," Brooking said. "The technology that's available to our faculty will make advising a lot easier and probably quicker for our students. Make sure we avoid any hiccups in getting them toward graduation." 

 

With the new software program, MUW will hire a programmer analyst to ease with transition.  

 

Brooking said MUW will also add an intermediate math developer to examine and potentially redesign the university's intermediate math course. Miller added with intermediate courses, math has become the largest struggle for incoming freshman.  

 

"I'm really excited about the ability to rethink our intermediate classes," Miller said. "Some of our students come in college able but not college ready. These courses are needed to give them a boost up to prepare them for College Algebra I."  

 

Aside from academics, sometimes non-curricular issues arise in students' lives. The grant will also provide an additional outreach counselor to the university's counseling center.  

 

"Nationwide we've seen higher instances of anxiety in students college-age," Brooking said. "That outreach counselor will add that little bit of extra support for the faculty and the students. I think this will also help students understand that if they're running up against a roadblock, we can help find them a detour." 

 

Brooking said the grant also allots professional development for all faculty advisers. He is also looking into updating the student advising manual, which hasn't been updated since 2011. MUW currently offers in-person tutoring for students. With the grant, Brooking said he will look to add online tutoring for students receiving a distance education.  

 

"Increasing retention, not only does it help educate people in the state, but for the institution it also makes sure we're solid," Brooking said. "It's a lot less expensive to retain a student than it is to recruit a student. We wanted to try and shore up everything we can to make sure we are going to be successful as an institution and for our students."

 

 

 

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