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UI official dedicates work to helping students

BY RACHEL GREEN | AUGUST 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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Sarah Hansen has spent her whole life in Iowa.

After growing up in Manchester, Iowa, she received both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at the University of Iowa.

Now, with her program, the Student Success Team, Hansen hopes to make the UI experience more enjoyable for undergraduate students.

The Student Success Team, created in 2008, is a group open to anyone involved in the UI community; it specializes in creating programs for students.

Many programs such as OnIowa, Pick One, and the IOWA Challenge, were grown out of the team.

“The Student Success Team was meant to start a broader conversation about the meaning of ‘student success,’ ” Hansen said. “We wanted to define student success as not just graduating and excelling academically but also focusing on student life and getting involved.”

Since its creation, the team has grown to now include around 300 students, faculty members, and staff members involved in quarterly meetings, online discussions, and committees dedicated to bettering the lives of students.

Hansen, who is also the UI assistant vice president for student life assessment and strategic initiatives, said the team was originally created as a bridge between academics and student life.

Even years after the group began, she said, everyone who has been a part of it since the beginning had no idea that it would do everything that it has.

Members of the team work year-round, beginning with a retreat that occurs near the start of the school year.

Hansen said she did not expect the organization to be as effective as it has been since its inception.

Kate Fitzgerald, the director of residence education and academic initiatives at UI Housing and Dining, said she believes the success of the group occurred because it creates a focus on undergraduate students, which is novel in the field of higher education, and also occurred because of Hansen’s involvement in it.

“[Hansen] is the organizer behind it all,” Fitzgerald said. “She’s able to connect various services across campus, set agendas, and include everyone who wants to be involved.

UI Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin said the organization has left a large impression on students.

“The most effective thing that the Student Success Team has done is create a forum in which dedicated people can present their ideas and act on them, and it empowers students, faculty, and staff,” he said. “Sarah Hansen has a great dedication to student success and a deep understanding of how to create change in an organization.”

Hansen said that although she is surprised by the success this program has garnered, she is pleased to see it happen.

“I had no inkling that [the team] would do all of this,” she said. “It was created just to have conversations about things that matter. [Its success] is honestly hugely gratifying and the highlight of my career.”


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