Last week, we held the most recent in a series of Academic Excellence town halls. Throughout this meeting, several of our colleagues who are leading the realignment provided updates, next steps and specific components of our shared vision:
Adrienne McMahan, Interim Assistant Provost for Student and Academic Support provided an update on advising.
Nick Kehrwald, Interim Dean of Students, provided an update on academic alerts
Kathi Kern, Director of the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, provided an update on tutoring services and initiatives.
Mary Bolin, Director of the UK Counseling Center, provided an update on the center and the important work in which her staff engages every day.
You can find each of their presentations, as well as other updates and communication about the realignment here.
Career and Academic Advising
As Adrienne emphasized at the town hall, our commitment to supporting academic success spans across many areas. We must take a collaborative, integrated approach to ensure we are creating the best possible environment for student academic success.
To that end, we are transitioning undeclared, exploratory, non-degree & APP students to the colleges. Our vision is to create a highly-coordinated and integrated professional advising system that reflects discipline-specific norms but stresses consistent, shared outcomes. We also aim to leverage technology and facilitate common practices, procedures and communication so students have a seamless advising experience regardless of which college they choose, move into or leave. While we have an immediate focus on the first- year transition, this initiative includes a highly integrated plan for all four years.
We are also working to develop a better advisor-to-student ratio. All undergraduate advisors will have a maximum caseload of 285-1, a ratio based on national averages and best practices.
This will require us to invest in hiring additional advisors, and is another example of us investing more—and more strategically—in our students.
Nick Kerhwald discussed a central initiative in our shared goal to increase retention and graduation rates—academic alerts.
Academic alerts are supplemental to communication from the faculty to the student about expectations and issues with class performance. Importantly, alerts are not a replacement for student-faculty communication; however, they provide another means for us to recognize and address instances in which students begin to struggle.
Once an academic alert is submitted, an email is instantaneously sent to the student and the academic advisor. The student is instructed to contact both his/her advisor and his/her instructor to resolve the academic issue in question. The academic advisor contacts the student promptly to discuss the issue. Concerns that would prompt an alert include missed classes; habitual lateness; un-submitted homework; poor homework quality; poor test performance or quizzes; risk of failing a course; and/or plans to leave UK.
We are currently piloting a system that will enhance the efforts even further. Launched last week, a group of 10-12 advisors across seven colleges are using it. Features of the new system include a communication platform that allows for automated communication templates, a share feature and a better note-taking system. The new system also provides better tracking of actions taken by advisors, which allows us to better collect data on the most important interventions.
We will continue to incorporate additional features throughout the semester, based on the important feedback we receive from our advisors and students.
Kathi Kern described at the town hall our commitment to coordinating a cohesive set of tutoring services on campus. We must ensure that students receive the same high quality tutoring assistance at all service points. To do so, Kathi and her team are working to heighten faculty involvement in the hiring and continuing education of tutors. She is also developing a plan that focuses on courses with high DEW rates and will roll out a pilot program next semester targeting those courses.
Over the course of the next several months, Kathi’s team will also meet with department chairs and associate deans to incorporate their feedback and ideas, while establishing a priority list and timetable for next steps in the on-going campus conversation about tutoring. We are also working to identify appropriate spaces for tutoring, particularly the relocation of The Study South.
Dr. Mary Bolin provided an update on the important work occurring in the UK Counseling Center. The Counseling Center offers groups, workshops and short-term counseling to support student's growth and assist with mental health, academic and/or other personal concerns that might interfere with academic performance or a sense of personal well-being while at UK. We know that emotional wellness plays a crucial role in student success; we want to continue to build upon these efforts and services.
As a part of this process, we have expanded—and will continue to expand—the capacity of the Counseling Center. The center will employ 17 licensed clinicians on-site by mid-October. In addition, we plan to hire two more clinicians within the next year: a coordinator for inclusive excellence and a licensed psychologist. We are also working to expand services by extending hours at Frazee Hall.
We will continue to host these community town halls throughout the realignment process. I’d like to extend my gratitude to each and every one of you who contributes to our most important shared goal: serving our students.