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EPI Outstanding Student Retention Program Award to Oklahoma City University and Texas A&M University

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA —June 18, 2008 —The Educational Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit educational research organization, announced the 2008 winners of the Outstanding Student Retention Program Award at the Retention 2008 conference in San Diego on May 30th.


This year’s recipients are Oklahoma City University and Texas A&M University, two institutions that have shown excellence in the development and implementation of their student retention program. Retention programs utilize a combination of academic and social factors to help students, especially those who are at-risk, to succeed at the two-, four-, and proprietary levels.


“Both Oklahoma City University and Texas A&M University are leading the way for other institutions of higher education to focus on student success,” said Dr. Watson Scott Swail, president of the Educational Policy Institute, at today’s presentation. “We hope that acknowledging the excellence of these and other institutions at our Retention 2008 International Conference on Student Retention will provide an opportunity for higher education leaders and practitioners to learn via the experience of others.”


Dr. Liz Donnelly and Mr. Eduardo Prieto, co-chairs of the “Retention and Graduation” initiative at Oklahoma City University, have adopted the strategies “Good to Great,” in order to produce a 13 percent freshman retention-rate increase. The four-stage “Good to Great” program offers guidelines to implement a research-based approach for improving an organization’s weak points. Oklahoma City University used an in-depth course of program evaluation, internal reviews, and external peer and benchmarking in order to move the institution toward a data-driven decision-making model. Utilizing strategic planning and assessment, Dr. Donnelly and Mr. Prieto have assisted the university in achieving healthy retention rates, enrollment headcounts, and fiscal stability. Continuing to strive for improvement, Oklahoma City University, a private, four-year institution of 3,600 students in Oklahoma City, has outlined specific goals for 2009 and hopes to reach their new target.


Ms. Myra Gonzalez, director of the “Century Scholars” scholarship and enrichment program at Texas A&M University (TAMU), has chosen to focus on long-term success for students and has successfully produced a student body that brings cultural, geographic, ethnic, and economic diversity to TAMU. The Century Scholars (Scholars) program has the dual distinction of acting as a developmental means for turning students into successful leaders and a recruitment tool that encourages student engagement at TAMU as it concentrates on retention through the students’ academic success. Since TAMU has many large, core-curriculum courses, the Scholars program targets students in these classes for the largest impact. The Century Scholars program also utilizes its scholars as ambassadors to their communities, who promote the ideals of academic excellence, leadership development, and professional growth to students at their former high schools through classroom visits. In addition, the Century Scholars Program has a partnership with 65 high schools from the Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas/Fort Worth area that have been underrepresented at TAMU in past years who have agreed to be designated at Century Scholar schools. With this partnership, the demographic distribution of the state is more fully exemplified and TAMU is able to offer a wider range of leadership development opportunities to Texas students. Texas A&M University is a public, not-for-profit university of over 46,000 students in College Station, Texas.


The 2007 award was presented to Youngstown State University and the University of Connecticutwon the inaugural Outstanding Retention Program Award in 2006. Retention 2009 will take place May 27-29, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.



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The Educational Policy Institute is a 501(c)3 corporation based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with offices in Winnipeg, Canada, and Melbourne, Australia. The mission of the Educational Policy Institute is to “expand educational opportunity for low-income and other historically-underrepresented students through high-level research and analysis.” For more information on EPI or its evaluation work, visit