UI retention officials will unveil new program in the fall


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More than a year after the University of Iowa Office of Retention was established, officials expect to unveil more retention initiatives this fall.

One such program is MAP Works, a survey university officials will use to identify early signs of at-risk behavior that could lead to students dropping out.

Director of Retention Michelle Cohenour is working on the project along with Kate Sojka, the director of new student programs. The recently created positions are aimed at improving retention rates.

The retention rate for the class entering in 2010 was approximately 85.6 percent, around 0.4 percentage points less than in 2009 but almost 3 percentage points more than in 2008.

MAP Works was originally tested in 2008-09 in the residence halls. Officials said the program wasn't ready then, but they believe it will have more success now.

"We're in a much better position to actually utilize the data that we have," said Andrew Beckett, an assistant dean in the Office of the Provost.

MAP Works will be included in the College Expectations course all freshmen are required to take. Students will take the survey during the third or fourth week of the semester and will provide specific feedback.

Cohenour said "at-risk" signs include failing to pay a U-bill on time, no involvement in campus activities, and early signs of poor grades and attendance.

Every student will receive feedback from the program on ways to improve academic success on campus. Some who display at-risk characteristics could be required to meet with retention officials.
Beckett said he received positive feedback with the program when he used it at his prior job at the University of Miami (Ohio).

Cohenour said she and Sojka have developed several programs in the retention office, such as the early intervention team — a collaboration among the office and other university offices including the Tippie College of Business, the Academic Advising Center, and the Threat Assessment Team.

"It was a need from Day One, but we were waiting as a campus to be ready for that," Cohenour said.

Along with the new programs and collaborations with different departments at the UI, retention officials plan on hiring an assistant director as early as this fall.

"Anytime you start a new office, it takes a year or two to figure out where you need to invest most of your time and resources," Beckett said.

The assistant director would primarily be responsible for working with the student leaders of OnIowa, as well as working closely with Cohenour.

Beckett said the position calls for skills with large-scale programming and good student interaction.

The new position will be listed until May 7, and the starting salary will be approximately $38,000.

Cohenour said she hopes the office will continue each year to collaborate with each department throughout the university.

"We couldn't do the work that we do without collaboration from different offices," she said. "Our students don't just kind of exist in one place on campus, but they're seen all throughout."

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