West Shore Community College revamps orientation program

West Shore Community College Vice President of academic and student services Lisa Stich addresses the board or trustees about student success and the new orientation process at the college.

West Shore Community College Vice President of academic and student services Lisa Stich addresses the board or trustees about student success and the new orientation process at the college.

SCOTTVILLE — Nothing is more important to the board of trustees and administration at West Shore Community College than the success of its students.

College officials have been focusing much attention on student success in the past several years and what steps they can take to make it better. What they are finding is many times student success can be directly tied to their first interaction with the college.

WSCC vice president of academic and student services said that one of the key leaders into that research is the Center for Community College Engagement.

“Their stance is based on their survey about student engagement which has encompassed  more than 80 percent of community college students nationwide who have taken that test,” she said. “WSCC participated in 2011 and again in the winter of 2014, so we are looking forward to the latest results later this summer to see the feelings of the students.”

Stich said the center is focused on student engagement because research indicated it is key component of student completion. Learning and success comes from students being actively engaged with staff, faculty and other students.

“Colleges have a growing body of evidence they can use to design educational experiences that engage students with their first interaction with the college,” she said. “Based on this work the study has developed and published 15 high impact practices for student engagement in community colleges.”

Stich said the college is  working on one of those practices which is a new student orientation program. WSCC’s director of enrollment management Shelby Hughes and professor Matt Sanderson have led those efforts.

“According to the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) orientation is a student experience that helps them know what they most need to know before classes begin,” she said. “That can range anywhere from being a two hour one time orientation on campus to an online orientation and a college success course or many different forms.”

She said West Shore has a small two- to three-hour orientation. That features a group of 10 to12 students coming to student services where they meet college officials, faculty members and advisers.

“They are given a tour of the college and at the end of the orientation they are able to sit with their adviser and register for college,” said Hughes. “So, we have come a long way in developing this new orientation model.”

Hughes said research shows that orientation leads to higher student satisfaction, greater use of student support services and improved retention of — at risk students.

“So, it is good for students and that is why we are doing it,” she said. “We really want to reduce all those barriers to education that most students see. A good example of that is student’s financial aid paperwork is often not completed by orientation and we flag those ones out to remind them about it.”

Prior to this small group orientation format, the students didn’t get the opportunity to interact with other students at orientation. Hughes said this also opens the door to interact with faculty and other staff members.

“They can now make connections right from day one and that makes them more successful,” she said.

Hughes said orientation has changed drastically over the years from a casual one to a large night orientation. She said that those early programs were not mandatory and that was something they needed to change.

She said the main things they focus on with student orientation are;

* Student connection: To make contact with what the student wants from college;

* Faculty connection: Students meet with faculty members and get the opportunity to speak with them;

* Resources awareness: To make students aware of all the college has to offer;

* Digital literacy: To show students about online registration and other services available online; and

* Advising: To match the students up with advisers so they can prepare to take the right classes.

“We are trying to make sure students are ready to go to college from day one,” she said.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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