October 15, 2010
Student Success Conference Gets Rave Reviews
On Friday, October 8, 2010 the first annual New England Conference for Student Success took place at the Campus Center. Attended by a sell-out crowd of 300 from 61 institutions of higher education and a number of vendors, the conference focused on effective strategies for educating the whole student and was co-sponsored by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and McGraw-Hill Publishers. This conference brought together regional faculty and administrators, as well as professional staff in academic and student affairs, to share practices that help students succeed in higher education.
The conference was the brainchild of SBS Dean Robert Feldman and Mark Lange, associate dean of undergraduate affairs for SBS. Lange came to UMass from Holyoke Community College where he built a very successful first-year experience program. Lange also spent a semester at the Gardner Institute in Brevard, NC, learning about student success strategies from well-known scholars John Gardner and Betsy Barefoot, who were both featured speakers at this year’s conference. Feldman is well known for his work in student success. Jackie Brousseau-Pereira, director of external affairs for SBS, coordinated the conference in cooperation with a multi-institutional steering committee and a program committee.
John Gardner, president of the Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Sciences at the University of South Carolina, and author of Your College Experience: Strategies for Success, delivered the keynote address. Dean Feldman, author of POWER Learning: Strategies for Success in College and Life, gave the opening plenary.
Betsy Barefoot, vice president and senior scholar at the Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, described best practices for teaching first-year students that can be applied to disciplines across the curriculum. Jane Wellman, executive director of Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability, discussed the importance of the “spending” side of student success and how institutions might spend their money smarter and do more with less. The session also considered research on the relation between revenues and success, and highlighted some encouraging findings just getting started with these initiatives.
Other sessions, offered concurrently and developed by various institutions from across New England, focused on issues such as developing peer mentors, meeting the needs of veterans, mentoring underrepresented students, the characteristics of millennial generation learners, and many more.
Attendees were energized and excited by the day’s events. Said one conference participant, “That was a sensational conference. I expected to soak up a little information and good vibes, but in fact I was floored. Bob Feldman was terrific—helpful, clarifying, encouraging, as was Betsy Barefoot; John Gardner was inspiring. One of my favorite things was being in conversation with Commonwealth teachers committed to undergraduate education and who receive it as a calling as well as a revenue generator…. I promise to import many ideas learned, crystallized, and renewed today into our work. Overall this was a very focused, generative, warm-hearted, and exquisitely hospitable occasion. Thank you.”