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Defining and Promoting Student Success through the Dillard University Building Engagement and Attainment for Minority Students (BEAMS) Project


Defining and Promoting Student Success
A National Symposium
November 21-22, 2008
University of San Francisco
San Francisco, California


Toya-Barnes Teamer, Dillard University
Henrietta Harris, Dillard University
Kevin J. Bastian, Dillard University
Danneal Jones, Dillard University

As Dillard University continues to develop and refine its strategic plan under its new president, student success seems to be its underlying theme. To support her commitment to this critical issue, the president has recently created a new Division of Student Success. The main responsibility of this Division is assessing and developing strategic initiatives for recruitment, retention, and completion (graduation) of its student body. With these goals in mind, the university Building Engagement for Minority Students (BEAMS) team has focused on a Student Integration Model for Success.

Special emphasis is being placed on each class year experience (e.g., first-year, second-year, etc.). Presently, the institution has a first-year experience called Jubilee Scholars. Although, data show that Dillard University retains approximately 70 % of students from freshmen to sophomore year, it only retains approximately 35 % from sophomore to junior year. After careful assessment of why students leave Dillard University after the second year, the data from the internal withdrawal forms suggest that financial challenges are the primary reason for leaving Dillard.

However, Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) surveys and the data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Project (CIRP), College Student Inventory (CSI), the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and an assessment of academic profiles of first year students, reflect that the reason may not be financially driven but based on the fact that first-year students may not be prepared to meet the academic challenges to maintain enrollment and may not have been sufficiently advised.

Project Description
With this in mind, the Dillard University BEAMS Team plans to focus on academic preparation and advising as two of the key areas to improve student success as a part of the institution’s strategic initiative. The team will assess and recommend enhancements for programs that allow provisionally and conditionally admitted students the opportunity to participate in academic and social enrichment programs offered on campus prior to the first semester (Emerging Scholars); assist first year students in cultivating relationships with their academic advisors and departments (Jubilee Scholars); and work to support programs developed in tandem with the academic divisions to retain students from year to year (Student Integration Model for Success).

Project Vision
Dillard University’s BEAM Team under the leadership of its President and Executive Cabinet will strive to facilitate institutional change that provides the necessary support for all students to successfully meet their academic, social, financial, psychological, career, and spiritual goals through their Dillard University experience.

Project Mission
Dillard University defines student success as an appropriate match between a student and the university. It is incumbent upon the entire university community to provide students with the resources necessary to becoming an asset to our society from the time of matriculation. It also means fostering a pride and respect for the experiences obtained at the institution so that students can, and will, positively promote and encourage others to want to be a part of the Dillard University family. Student success will be defined through increased retention, graduation, and placement rates which would add to increased overall enrollment.

Project Goals
The primary action steps to implement a successful model are as follows:

Increased Enrollment and Retention

  • Increase the number of first year student enrollment incrementally to pre-Katrina status.
  • Increase the number of transfer students incrementally to pre-Katrina status.
  • Increase the return rate each year for all students by classification and academic program to exceed pre-Katrina status.
  • Increase overall and academic divisional student enrollment.
  • Increase the number of faculty and staff involved in enrollment and retention initiatives.
  • Increase the number of parents and alumni involved in enrollment and retention initiatives.
  • Develop a retention plan of action for each academic classification (first-year, sophomores, juniors and seniors).
  • Develop policies, procedures, programming, and support for students that address their needs as a whole person (i.e. academic, social, psychological, financial, career, and spiritual).

Enhance Dillard University’s Support Services and Academic Advising

  • Academic Advising Program
  • Student Support Services
  • Early Warning System
  • Admission Policies and Procedures
  • Financial Aid and Scholarship Program
  • Records and Registration Process
  • Student Engagement Program

Increased Degree Completion Rate

  • Increase the number of Dillard University graduates (overall and by academic major/program area) incrementally to pre-Katrina status.
  • Set goals to have students complete their degree within the timeframe allotted for their academic plans.
  • Institutional data used to develop these initiatives are located in the attached Retention and Graduation rate charts.

Finally, the overall mission that must be accomplished is to create an environment where all Dillard administrators, faculty, staff and students embrace the notion that “Student Success is Everybody’s Business.”

Project Performance Measures and Data
The performance measures we will focus on are as follows: increased enrollment, retention, student success program participation, and degree completion. We will also consider as a measure the development of a retention plan as well as the progress made on the review and modifications to present policies and procedures that impact student success such as academic advising, early warning, student engagement, etc.

Project Progress Made to Date
The progress made to date on this project is the development and refinement of a student success model around student support and retention; the development of a tentative timeline for 08-09 activities; and a commitment of BEAMS Team members to carry out the project.

BEAMS Focus for 2008-2009

A Student Integration Model for Success
Tinto’s Student Integration Theory (Vincent Tinto, 1987, 1993): The basic premise of Tinto’s theory is that social and academic integration are essential to student retention and success. Tinto (1987) noted that “eventual persistence requires that individuals make the transition to college and become incorporated into the ongoing social and intellectual life of the college.” Incorporation is analogous to integration. The term “integration can be understood to refer to the extent which the individual shares the normative attitudes and values of peers and faculty in the institution and abides by the formal and informal structural requirements for membership in that community or in the subgroups of which the individual is a part.” Interaction between the student and his/her environment and the match between individual motivation, academic ability, and his/her academic and social characteristics causes a student to stay or depart.

Dillard University Strategic Plan: Dillard University will enhance enrollment and retention of talented African American students, as well as attract students from diverse backgrounds who may benefit from the Dillard educational experience.

Division of Student Success at Dillard University: The Division of Student Success strives to improve the quality of student life and learning at Dillard University through the development and implementation of specific institutional strategies for improvement, modification, and creation of programs, services, and facilities for student success.

Student Integration Model at Dillard University: Student Integration Model for Success at Dillard University states that administrative, academic, social, psychological, financial, career, and spiritual integration are essential to student retention and success.

We propose to adopt seven learning outcomes for all DU classifications and align them with the Student Integration Model for Success.

The seven learning outcomes are as follows:

  • Students will begin to develop a comprehensive perspective on higher education.
  • Students will have the opportunity to experience a safe, supportive, and positive university learning experience, which includes the establishment of a network of staff, faculty, and other students.
  • Students will understand and begin to practice basic communication skills appropriate to the academic setting.
  • Students will begin the process of understanding critical thinking in the university context.
  • Students should understand and apply information technology in support of their academic work.
  • Students should begin to develop knowledge of their own abilities, skills, and life demands so that they can develop these more effectively in pursuit of their academic goals.
  • Students should understand the role and make full use of Dillard University resources and services which support their learning and campus connections.

Using data to inform campus change around the Student Integration Model for Success
The Dillard University campus team has used demographic data, enrollment data, course data, retention data, graduation data, Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction data, College Student Inventory data, NSSE data, and CIRP data for our Student Integration Model for Success. Reviewing the data from last year’s project allowed team members to see that our biggest challenge was a comprehensive plan to retain presently enrolled students. We aggressively moved to develop an Enrollment Recovery Plan for new students at Dillard University. However, we failed to acknowledge the impact of retention on meeting overall enrollment goals. Based upon our experiences with analyzing the data to develop the Enrollment Recovery Plan, we learned that we were missing critical pieces of data that impacted not only new students, but returning students. We should promote the success stories of currently enrolled students to our prospective students in a manner that celebrates the academic and professional achievements of their efforts at Dillard University.

Using data to assess the success of campus change initiatives around Student Integration for Success
Our Student Integration Model for Success is based on increased retention, grade point averages, academic profiles, course grade distribution and decreased mid-term and final failure rates. The Student Integration Model will be assessed through documented student learning activities outside of the classroom, the creation of a faculty/staff mentoring program, and the tracking of student participation in counseling and other academic services, activities on financial planning and responsibility, student/faculty collaborative research, leadership, and spiritual vocation via VisionQuest as well as seminars and forums. Dillard University will sustain this project through several different venues.

These venues are as follows:

  • President’s Executive Cabinet Meetings
  • Board of Trustees Student Success Committee Meetings
  • Faculty/Staff Annual Institutes
  • Division of Student Success Weekly Leadership Team Meetings
  • Faculty Senate Recruitment, Admissions, Retention Committee Meeting
  • Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) Meeting
  • DU CARES Meetings
  • BEAMS Monthly Committee Meetings

Sustaining Campus Change
Dillard University BEAMS Team will engage in the following steps in order to build support for the Student Integration Model for Success and to ensure its sustainability over time:

  • Update the President and the Executive Cabinet at the close of the Fall semester to obtain a re-commitment for this year’s project.
  • Update the new Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost on the proposed plan to garner feedback and support.

We will seek public support from Dillard’s senior administrators and build buy-in from campus constituencies (faculty, students, staff, others), by doing the following:

  • Make a presentation to the DU faculty and staff at the Faculty/Staff In-service
  • Update the Faculty Senate Committee on Recruitment, Admissions and Retention and have each member commit to their specific areas.
  • Meet with the Student Leadership team to update them to get their involvement
  • Update the Division of Student of Success on the BEAMS project
  • Update the BEAMS calendar of events from last year
  • Create a standing BEAMS Team Committee and schedule update meetings every other Thursday around the Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) standing meeting.
  • Update the Trustee Committees on Student Success and the BEAMS project.

Dillard University will confirm that the project is clearly incorporated in the university’s strategic plan and SACS Reaffirmation 2010 as examples.

Project Next Steps
The next steps and markers of the BEAMS Team regarding this project can be found in the calendar of events found below. However, in order for this project to impact student success it must be aligned with the university’s strategic plan and budget process to insure long term sustainability. The best chances for achieving sustainability for this project is ensuring it remains a priority for our president, board of trustees, and strategic planning initiatives, as well as for our stakeholders (prospective students, enrolled students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, external funders, etc.). The BEAM Team must also continue to collect data to ensure that the goals and objectives of the project are being met over time.

Key Next Steps for Implementation
2008-2009 Calendar of Events
July Update Cabinet on the Institute for Higher Education Policy 2008 Summer Academy
Marker: Renewed Commitment to the Project

August Introduce the BEAMS Project as a part of the Faculty & Staff In-service
Marker: Awareness and Interest to engage in other strategic conversations through survey

September BEAMS Student Success Series Topic: Early Warning
Marker: Implement strategies for the fall and spring in collaboration with academic divisions

October BEAMS Student Success Series Topic: Student Support Services
Marker: Increased number of students passing midterm exams
Marker: Increased number of students taking advantage of academic seminars
Marker: Decreased number of students referred by academic units for services after midterm

November BEAMS Student Success Series Topic: Academic Advising
Marker: Improved academic advising prior to Spring semester in collaboration with academic divisions

December BEAMS Student Success Series Topic: Records & Registration
Marker: Improved process for registering students in collaboration with academic divisions

January BEAMS Student Success Series Topic: Student Engagement
Marker: More students involved in campus activities in collaboration with academic divisions
Marker: Bring in an external consultant to reinforce focus on student integration model for the entire university campus

February BEAMS Student Success Series Topic: Financial Aid & Scholarships
Marker: More students maintaining satisfactory academic process prior to the next semester
Marker: Decrease in the number of graduating seniors who have fiscal challenges impacting their ability to participate in commencement
Marker: Increase in returning and new student FASFA completion for the next academic year

March BEAMS Student Success Series Topic: Student Recruitment
Marker: More faculty/ staff/alumni and students involved in recruiting new students
Marker: Increase in student application and admitted students
Marker: Creation of a plan for enrollment by academic division

April BEAMS Student Success Series Topic: Admission Standards
Marker: Modified admissions standards to create alternate pathways for admissions (automatic, provisional and conditional tied to academic support services)

May BEAMS Student Success Series Topic: Student Success
Marker: Acknowledge and celebrate those engaged in the process over the past year
Marker: Focus on grants to provide additional resources for student success
Marker: Create a student success activity to prepare students for the upcoming year

June BEAMS Team member debriefing and assessment of activities
Marker: Modifications and enhancements for the next year

July BEAMS Team Members planning for new academic year
Marker: Create a Benchmarking/Best Practices Trip
Marker: Support for Project


Tinto, V. (1987).Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd. ed.) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.