Retention system to help in first year

To increase retention at Missouri Southern, a program called “Early-Alert” is underway.

The program is headed by Advising, Counseling and Testing Services, formerly the Student Support Center, and is aimed at preventing students from dropping out. Though the bulk of the program is focused on the first-year experience, it is intended for all students.

“Early warning really allows us to visit with that student and take charge and see what needs to be done,” said Kelly Wilson, director of ACTS. “I’m really excited about it. I think it’s a proactive way to be preventive. That’s our goal.”

One part of the three-phased program is the College Student Inventory (CSI), an assessment used to evaluate incoming freshmen. The inventory will assess students in many areas, including academic strengths and weaknesses, study skills, motivation and college goals. According to Faustina Abrahams, first-year advising coordinator and counselor for ACTS, the CSI will flag any “at risk behavior” indicated by the students.

“The idea of the program is to help us line them [the students] up and make sure they’re working on their challenges and intervening before things get out of hand,” she said.

The next installment of the Early-Alert program is called PASS, Path to Academic Success, and is a program which will aid students who are on probation. The students will be assessed on what contributed to their probation and advised on how it can be avoided in the future. Periodic grade checks will take place throughout the semester and the ACTS staff will work with each student’s adviser to create a suitable class schedule.

“We are hoping that this will increase our retention because if we intervene early and the students are able to get help, they are likely going to stay,” Abrahams said. “Students who end up on academic suspension often don’t come back.”

A pilot of the PASS program is currently running with undecided majors and will continue into the fall. PASS is expected to go campuswide in the fall of 2009. According to Abrahams, those following through with the pilot program are doing well.

“Some of my students who are in the program have made the commitment to doing it, but are not following through with their work,” she said. “We keep reaching out to them. We can only help those who want to be helped.”

The final part of the Early-Alert program is “yet to come,” said Abrahams, but it involves faculty reporting any student related problems they have noticed. The program is set to prevent problems that may otherwise hinder student success.

“I think it’ll be embraced by both faculty and students because we both share the same goal,” Wilson said. “I can’t wait to get out there and use it as a tool.”