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EPI Announces 2009 Retention Award Winners

Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Robert Morris University, & Seneca College

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA —June 8, 2009 —The Educational Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit educational research organization, announced the 2009 winners of the Outstanding Student Retention Program Award at the Retention 2009 conference in New Orleans on May 27.


This year’s recipients are Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Robert Morris University, and Seneca College, three 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.


“These three institutions are leading the way for other institutions of higher education to focus on student success,” said 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 2009 International Conference on Student Retention will provide an opportunity for higher education leaders and practitioners to learn via the experience of others.”


Gayle Williams, Assistant Dean for Academic Programs, supported by Michele Hansen, Director of Assessment, and Lauren Chism, Director of Themed Learning Communities, leads the IUPUI’s Summer Academy Bridge Program/Themed Learning Communities Joint Initiative. The Summer Academy Bridge program, which began in 2001 with 18 students, served over 500 students last summer, representing approximately one-fifth of the entering freshmen class. Since the beginning, Bridge participants at IUPUI have moved into linked learning community first-year seminars for their fall semester. The Themed Learning Communities (TLC) program is composed of 3 or more linked courses, including an integrative first year seminar connected through an interdisciplinary theme. In 2007, 57% of the Bridge students enrolled in Themed Learning Communities (TLCs), and the remainder enrolled in IUPUI’s traditional learning community sections. All include a first-year seminar course. Annual retention, GPA, and satisfaction assessment results have always indicated that students who enroll in both the Bridge Program and the TLCs are more likely to be retained, to be academically successful, and to feel positive about their experiences at IUPUI.




IUPUI's Gayle Williams receiving the 2009 Outstanding Retention Program Award from EPI Vice President Patricia Moore Shaffer

Robert Morris University’s Ron Arnold, Vice President for Business Affairs, and Lauren Miller, Director, First Year Experience, lead a highly successful retention program that at its heart has an intrusive advising approach that supports students as they make the transition into college and matriculate through graduation. This intrusive approach initiates early contact and helps students develop plans for academic and social improvement. As student populations have changed over time, intrusive advising has been developed to create relationships that involve shared responsibility, proactive interactions to meet student goals, and encouragement. While the University had utilized faculty advisors up until the 1990s, the growing need for greater academic support encouraged the institution to adopt in 2000 an academic student advisor position, which has allowed a stronger focus on addressing the challenges that can interfere with students’ abilities to continue with their education. Since many of the students’ needs expand beyond the academic, student advisors are cross-trained in basic financial aid and career services/internship information. This academic advising program, coupled with a First-Year Experience program and career advising, has helped Robert Morris University become a leader in graduating students of color.




Robert Morris University's Ron Arnold, Vice President for Business Affairs, receiving the 2009 Outstanding Retention Program Award from EPI President Watson Scott Swail

Seneca College’s Steve Fishman, directs SUCCESS@Seneca, a program that engages the college community and encourages a culture that reflects a sense of connection and pride. Now in its fourth year, SUCCESS@Seneca incorporates the following components: a) an extensive and extended orientation program; b) an interactive and informative online ‘success’ portal; c) a series of success workshops and social networking opportunities; and d) ongoing connection with a College Coach. Through these components, students are engaged, supported, and motivated to persist and achieve in academic, career and personal life tasks. A vast number of individual college employees who work as support staff, faculty and administrators participate as College Coaches and as workshop facilitators in orientation and throughout the school year. Also, integral to this initiative, SUCCESS@Seneca includes a number of college services and resources such as financial aid, academic departments, counseling and career services, tutoring services, and student affairs. Institutional research data consistently indicates that students who participate in the program are more likely to persist in their college studies and achieve at higher academic levels.




Seneca College's Steve Fishman, also a three-time Retention Conference attendee, doing his Stanley Cup hoist as he celebrates Seneca's acknowledgement as a 2009 Outstanding Retention Program Awardee



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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