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College Update

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Patrick Troup, Vice President of Student Services

What Does Student Success Look Like?

I was asked to give my thoughts on what does student success look like from a student affairs lens. I would argue that student success should look the same from any lens, whether it is Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, IT, Finance and Operations, or any other division at the college.

In the past – and still among many people – student success means “a particular student’s academic success” or “the success of students generally,” and it focuses primarily on students’ grades and their performances in their classes. Doubtlessly, any notion of student success will include some measure of the academic progression of our students, but Student Success is much more than that.

There are several problems with thinking about student success as merely a measure of individual students’ academic outcomes. First, it places the burden of success solely on the shoulders of the students themselves. A lack of success in this regard is as much a moral claim as it is an empirical one. Second, an institution can have a very high degree of this kind of student success simply by admitting only those students who are prepared in ways that make them extraordinarily likely to graduate. Thankfully, we are not that type of institution. This undermines efforts to increase access to college and to provide equitable educations to students. Third, this definition of student success fails to take into account the fact that students only spend about 15% of their waking hours in class; going to college is about much more than just going to class.

Student Success is the measure of an institution’s ability to provide an inclusive and equitable curriculum, climate, and associated academic, social, wellness, and financial support so that all students can learn, thrive, persist, and graduate. Understood this way, Student Success is not a measure of the academic achievement of either individual students or students collectively; rather, measures like probation, persistence, graduation, sense of belonging, campus engagement, and time-to-degree indicate how well an institution is designed to support its students.

Abandoning the old notion of students’ success and replacing it with an institutionally focused vision for Student Success encourages us to fundamentally rethink many aspects of Minneapolis College’s student experience. That is exactly what we are attempting to do through Equity by Design, Guided Learning Pathways and our Trauma Responsive/Healing work. It compels us to examine every policy, procedure, and practice – from recruitment through graduation – to ask if it is equitable and designed to serve our students.

The adoption of this definition of Student Success would offer us the opportunity to think carefully about students’ essential needs, including food and housing security, cost-of-attendance, health and wellness, career readiness, and all of the other things associated with college that extend beyond the classroom walls. It also offers the opportunity to allow for a more individualized – and truly diverse and inclusive – definition of success for each of our students.

For me, this definition of Student Success empowers and expects all employees of the institution to take responsibility for building and leading an institution that is accessible to a diverse group of potential students and that provides a truly equitable educational experience to everyone that walks through our doors.  That means, organizing our institution to meet each and every student where they are at.

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