LINK UP Task Force to support First Year Experience and Retention efforts

The Campus Retention Advisory Committee is focusing this year on First-Year Experience (as well as Gatekeeper/Bottleneck Courses) in a collaborative effort across all the colleges and support units to improve undergraduate student success rates at UK. As part of that effort, a new subcommittee for the First-Year Experience (FYE) has been created to focus on addressing achievement gaps between different demographic groups in the UK undergraduate student population.

The Division of Undergraduate Education, Student Affairs, Enrollment Management and the Office of Institutional Diversity partnered to create an intentional outreach effort for freshmen students who are first generation, an underrepresented minority, or a recipient of a federal Pell grant.  Called LINK UP, the initiative leverages existing campus resources to reach out to targeted students.

“Our goal is to help non-scholarship students establish a connection to campus,” Matthew Deffendall, Director of First Generation Initiatives and a member of the LINK UP Task Force, told us.  In addition to Matthew, the task force consists of Toni Thomas (CARES), Jeff Spradling (Robinson Scholars), Lydia Wims (Student Support Services), Lauren Goodpaster (New Student and Parent Programs), Grace Hahn (Director of Student Engagement in Student Involvement), JoLynn Noe (Planning and Financial Operations Director in Enrollment Management), Dr. Bethany Miller (Director, Retention and Student Success in UGE) and Dr. Ben Withers (Associate Provost, UGE).

According to Dr. Miller, this fall more than 1,750 Fall 2014 cohort students are members of one of the three targeted subgroups: first-generation college-going (1G), under-represented minority (URM), or Pell grant recipient. The list of 1,750 students was compared against the high school readiness index and college targeted sub-cohorts (the 700);  as a result, a distinct group of 384 students were identified for additional outreach via phone calls and intrusive secondary advising through one-on-one appointments, midterm grade checks, and inclusion in programs and workshops previously provided to a limited number of scholarship recipients through the aforementioned programs. Incentives for participation include a book scholarship at the end of the term.

Matthew Deffendall told Dr. Miller about the work of the task force: “If we can help at least one student then our effort was worthwhile because retention is not any one person’s job, it is team effort essential to the culture and climate we create on campus.”


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Free Screening of “The Ivory Tower” documentary and panel discussion, Oct 27

I bring to your attention an event pertinent to the status and future of higher education. It is a documentary film screening that has captured considerable interest in the educational community. All members of the Academy are encouraged to attend.

Free Screening of The Ivory Tower – Monday, October 27

Ivory TowerThe Graduate School, The Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) Program, and the department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation (EPE) are hosting a free screening of the documentary The Ivory Tower.  A discussion will follow.

Monday, October 27th
6:30 p.m.

Taylor Education Building Auditorium, Room 158

Panelists include Dr. Jeffery Bieber (moderator, EPE), Dr. John R. Thelin (EPE), Dr. Eugenia F. Toma (Martin School of Public Policy and Administration), and Heather Yonutas (doctoral student in Anatomy and Neurobiology and President of the Graduate Student Congress).

clip from film trailer - graduates throwing mortarboards in the air

Click on the image above to see the trailer

“As tuition rates spiral beyond reach and student loan debt passes $1 trillion (more than credit card debt), this documentary asks: Is college worth the cost? From the halls of Harvard, to public colleges in financial crisis, to Silicon Valley, filmmaker Andrew Rossi assembles an urgent portrait of a great American institution at the breaking point.”— from the DVD jacket

Official Selection 2014 Sundance Film Festival

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UGE Reading for the Week – Jobs for Graduates in Humanities and Arts

Reading for the Week from UGE Weekly Update by Dr. Withers:

Inside Higher Ed published an article late last week “Jobs for Humanities, Arts Grads” which summarizes two recent reports. One study, by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, found that “the annual median salary for humanities bachelor’s degree holders was $51,000, below the median$56,000for all workers whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree, but well above that of workers who had less than a bachelor’s degree$35,000.” (See the chart below showing media annual earnings for full-time workers with baccalaureate degrees in selected academic fields – exposing also the different salaries negotiated for men and women in the workplace.)

Chart showing undergraduate degrees and salaries

2012 Median annual earnings of full-time workers with bachelor’s degrees for selected fields, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

SNAAP logoThe second study was prepared by Indiana University’s Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP). This report “also showed generally positive signs for recent graduates of arts departments, who largely reported feeling prepared to continue in advanced degree programs, able to find work related to their field of study, and satisfied with their jobs.” SNAAP results indicated that older alumni do not feel as strongly as more recent grads that college taught career-related skill in networking and financial management. “Sixty-four percent of recent grads were in jobs they described as either ‘very relevant’ or ‘relevant’ to their educational training, which is similar to or better than the rates for their peers in other fields…”


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Doug Boyd on Using Oral History to Preserve Stories of War, 3:30 pm Oct 14

This just in from Annie Kelly, Assistant Director of New Student and Parent Programs:

The Common Reading Experience Program invites the University of Kentucky students, faculty and staff to participate in the second of three Common Reading Experience Faculty Lectures held this semester:

From Combat to Kentucky:
Using Oral History to Preserve Stories of War

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
3:30-4:30 p.m., Student Center 359

Doug Boyd

Doug Boyd, Ph.D.

Presented by Dr. Doug Boyd

Director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History,
University of Kentucky Libraries

From Combat to Kentucky VideoSee the C2KY website for individual interviews and more information about the oral history project with University of Kentucky veterans and other college students from Kentucky who served.

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We’re Making Progress! Thanks to All of YOU Working on Student Success at UK

This just in from Dr. Bethany Miller, Director of Retention and Student Success:

The weeks prior to mid-term are critical to student success, and the immediate actions taken during this time will set a strong foundation for the entire year.  Concentrating our efforts toward increasing the fall to spring retention rate will afford us a larger pool of students to retain between the first spring and second fall, positioning us well for potentially reaching our highest one-year retention rate.  We are five weeks into the semester, and there is much activity occurring related to student success, including:

  • regular meetings of the Campus Retention Advisory Committee; Student Success Leadership Team; Retention Leadership Team; College Retention Committees; and Tableau Super-Users
  • distribution by college of Fall 2014 preliminary GRS (official graduating class) cohorts
  • distribution by college of Fall 2014 targeted sub-cohorts (The 700)
  • distribution to students of monthly Financial Newsletters
  • creation of Retention & Graduation dashboards in HANA Tableau
  • faculty participation in the Academic Alert System (and advisor and financial counselor outreach as part of the process)

The collaborations with our campus partners and critical friends are proving to be productive and effective.  We appreciate the campus-wide dedication and immediate response to our newest fall cohort.


Download flyer – click on image for .pdf file

Academic Majors Fair

Planning for the Academic Majors Fair is well underway:  a communication/ promotion plan has been established, and we are currently gathering college table needs.  Download the .pdf of the poster/flyer/image being used to promote this event.  Feel free to use it in any of your promotions – for updated information, watch the Student Success website at .  Thanks to Vaughan Fielder, UGE Web Architect,  for creating this design.

Bethany L. Miller, Ph.D.
Director, Office for Student Success
(859) 257-9025

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Academic Integrity Initiative – Involving Faculty and Students, 2014-15

A collaboration between UGE, CELT, Faculty Advancement, and Presentation U! offers this year an exciting line-up of activities focusing on issues in academic integrity.


While some institutions have formal Academic Integrity units (for example, the University of California San Diego’s Academic Integrity Office) that consistently promote among faculty and students a culture of integrity and ethics in education, the University of Kentucky has not yet done so. Since we do not have an academic integrity office here at UK, we rely on individual faculty and department chairs to address it in their own academic cultures. But this is not just an issue of undergraduate students in the classroom. In today’s “publish or perish” culture in research universities, the pressure to produce a scholarly monograph can tempt our most experienced as well as young scholars.

We seek to address these issues directly and to improve our scholarly community’s discussions in a more intentional approach toward academic integrity. There are two major approaches to bolstering academic integrity centrally and within a university community:

  • Rule compliance – a committee develops a rule that tells scholars and students can’t do and the university formally adopts the document, complete with specific penalties associated with non-compliance; the tone of this method is typically very legalistic and can quickly become adversarial. This approach is typically supported with plagiarism detection software and warnings in the instructors’ syllabi about its use – as is the situation currently here at the University of Kentucky.
  • Integrity approach – primarily developmental in design, asserting that the university is responsible for crafting spaces for ethical discussions, using discipline only as a tool to help the accused and accuser develop as a person and as members of a healthy scholarly community. This approach requires regular and consistently informed involvement by faculty, staff and students (with administrative involvement only on rare occasions). The corresponding campus discussions about academic integrity and ethics include events or activities at local, departmental levels as part of a broader university initiative to raise awareness. This approach has been in the news, see:

Plagiarism detection is one solution in addressing this issue, but this request is about all potential solutions for empowering students and their instructors to improve scholarly performances.

Events and Activities to Join In

This academic year, the group offers several strategies to encourage and promote among both students and faculty a culture of integrity and ethics in research and education:

  1. CELT offered a faculty workshop early in the semester to new faculty (and any other faculty who wanted to participate): “Cheating: Curbing, Catching and Consequences” took place on Tuesday, September 9 and was repeated on September 10. The one-hour workshop addressed the issue of academic dishonesty to include cheating on exams and plagiarizing papers.  The workshop facilitators helped faculty answer these questions: What strategies can be used to curb cheating from occurring and catching it when it does?  How can we construct our courses to reduce the incentives for cheating?  What is the UK policy for dealing with students suspected of cheating? More faculty workshops will be offered by CELT this spring so watch for notices from their listserv. (If you are not a member of the CELT Announcement List, you can subscribe by going to the CELT website and clicking on “Join Our Announcement List.”
  2. Student workshops led by Presentation U! faculty mentors in collaboration with Student Affairs will address academic integrity. The first one is “Power Hour on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism” which will occur on October 16 at 3 p.m. at the Presentation U! center (B-24 W.T.Young Library – download the flyer here). The Presentation U! team will come to your department or division to offer this Power Hour as part of this strategic effort to support student success – to schedule an on-site Power Hour in your area, contact the Presentation U! team at 218-5186.
  3. Academic Integrity Website Outline - screenshot of PreziUGE will launch a new interactive website focusing on Academic Integrity that is scenario-based, offers best practices throughout, both faculty/staff and student focused, and gamified. See the draft outline (and partners involved) at
  4. UGE, CELT and Faculty Advancement have collaborated to launch the Academic Integrity Faculty Learning Community (FLC). This FLC’s agenda is designed to address campus-wide need for greater attention to active learning strategies and articulation of ethics in undergraduate student scholarship specific to disciplinary standards. Characteristics of the FLC will be as follows:
    • led and operated by the faculty, facilitated by Lee Skallerup Bessette (CELT)
    • consists of 10-15 members from departments with high enrollment majors and key introductory service courses (including Chemistry, Biology, Physics, WRD and CIS)
    • receives a budget to spend on activities/materials and each faculty receives a stipend
    • meets regularly (at least once a month) and produces something (by each individual or by the group) that will be shared with the university community in April 2015
    • will combine with students in a Presentation U! Power Hour on Academic Integrity in February or March
    • will present their findings and allow for campus-wide discussions in a special event co-sponsored with the undergraduate colleges’ deans sometime in the first week of April 2015

    More information will soon be coming from Dr. Ben Withers who is working with the deans of the undergraduate colleges to identify the members of this new FLC.

Supporting the UK 2014-20 Strategic Plan

This initiative addresses specific actions identified in the UK Strategic Plan, in particular these actions and targets in Goal 1, “Create a Vibrant Undergraduate Learning Community”:

  • Action 1: Focus on High Quality and Interdisciplinary Learning
    • Tactic 1.1: Cultivate students’ awareness of UK’s academic excellence
    • Tactic 1.4: Expand opportunities for undergraduate enrichment programs
  • Action 2: Engage in High-Impact Teaching and Learning
    • Tactic 2.1: Create a campus-wide culture in support of teaching
  • Action 3: Achieve National Excellence in Student Support
    • Using quantitative and qualitative data, target, strengthen and coordinate programming and support to close gaps in student educational achievement, equity, opportunity, and success

If you have any questions, please contact:

  • Lee Skallerup Bessette, Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (English)
  • Sonja Feist-Price, Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs (Education)
  • Randolph Hollingsworth, Assistant Provost for Program Development, Division of Undergraduate Education (History)
  • Jasmine McNealy, Assistant Professor, Information Communication Technology, and Presentation U! Faculty Fellow
  • Chris Rice, Associate Director, Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (Political Science)
  • Deanna Sellnow, Director of Presentation U! and Assistant Provost for Transformative Learning, Undergraduate Education (Communication)


Related articles:


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First Year Experience Initiatives at the University of Kentucky

Student Success and Campus Retention WorkgroupAn important task for the Division of Undergraduate Education this year as part of the 2014-2020 Strategic Plan is to lead the University in a review of our undergraduate students’ first year experience.  This fall, a First Year Experience (FYE) committee was created as a subgroup of the Campus Retention Advisory Committee.

The FYE committee meets on a regular basis to increase communication between colleges and units and to develop a seamless and intentional transition for first-year students—from recruitment through the end of the first year. Current programs and practices (e.g., recruitment, Preview Nights, summer orientation, welcome week, summer bridge, Living-Learning Program) are being reviewed as well as gaps that may exist in the first year experience. The FYE committee is also examining messages about University expectations and students success that are communicated to first-year students. The group will develop consistent messaging via publications, social media, orientation programs, UK 101, etc.

Key Updates to the FYE Program at UK

The University of Kentucky’s undergraduate community invests many volunteer hours and infrastructure resources to several components in the UK First Year Experience. Here are some updates on some of those we know have a big impact on UK student retention rates, contributing to UK’s #1 ranking for retention rates among Kentucky’s public postsecondary institutions.

Office of Retention and Student Success

The Office of Retention and Student Success implemented weekly emails to update colleges on retention and to identify specific actions (see for example the Spring 2014 outreach campaign). Dr. Bethany Miller, Director of Retention and Student Success, and the UK Analytics Team developed a retention prediction model. This model used data from five previous years of UK students to identify the 300 students closest to a 50% probability of not returning next fall. We targeted 300 students for outreach. Advisors in each undergraduate college conducted this individualized outreach to help promote the retention of the students. Using the retention prediction model and outreach we retained 62% of the students we identified as having a 50% probability of returning. This meant that 50 more students returned than would have been expected without the outreach.

UK 101: Academic Orientation

UK 101: Academic Orientation is a course designed to help first-year students in their transition to university life. Offered continuously since 1991, the course introduces strategies and resources that build a strong foundation for academic success while promoting opportunities for intellectual and personal growth. Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs collaborate to offer the course relying on the UK 101 Advisory Group, composed of faculty, staff, and students, to develop and evaluate the curriculum. UK 101 is one of the few courses at UK that is directed towards students of all majors and developed, taught and evaluated through campus-wide collaboration. Course evaluations completed by students, peer instructors, and instructors indicate that the course meets the learning outcomes for the majority of students.

Our goal is to reach at least 50% of the first-year cohort. Currently, 2445 first-year students are enrolled in UK 101 for Fall 2014 — compared to the 2080 students who completed the course in Fall 2013 — and more college-specific sections (approximately half of the 102 sections) were created for this term.

Since 2003, UK has experienced an overall positive growth in the first-second year retention rates for all students, though this trend has been long and slow. The chart below shows that this trend toward higher retention is seen in both students who enrolled in UK 101 and those who did not enroll. Within this general trend, there remains a clear differential between the first-second fall retention rates of those students who enrolled in UK 101 and those who did not.

line chart showing difference between UK101 enrollees and non-UK enrolleesStudents enrolled in UK 101 consistently are retained at a higher rate than those not enrolled. UK 101 students also consistently graduate within 4 years at higher rates than students who do not take the course.

The Common Reading Experience

Since the inception of the Common Reading Experience in 2009, the average percent of students who read the selected book is 77%. In 2013, 1717 students attended the author lecture held on campus. In a post-lecture survey last year, 86% of students stated that they strongly agreed or moderately agreed that the Common Reading Experience enhanced their experience as a first-year UK student. In the same survey, 83% of students strongly agreed or moderately agreed that after reading the book Where Am I Wearing, they were more aware and engaged consumers.

The UK Common Reading Experience has always been a part of the UK101 curriculum, and this year was enhanced through further integration of the book into academic courses (CIS/WRD 110; A-E 120, Pathways to Creativity in the Visual Arts) that are a part of UK CORE.  Programming was expanded throughout the first semester because of partnerships with numerous faculty, staff, and student groups.

See Blue U, Summer Orientation

The summer orientation program, See Blue U, was restructured to include small-group interactions between students and peer leaders and a greater emphasis on academic advising.

Living Learning Program

The UK Living Learning Program increased from 13 Living Learning Communities in 2013-14 to 18 in 2014-15. (See more on the Provost’s website about the work of the LLP Task Force.) There are over 1700 student participants in Fall 2014, double the previous year’s total. UGE and Student Affairs will work together to assess the impact of the significantly expanded Living-Learning Program.

The Study’s Peer-to-Peer Mentoring and Other Services offered in Academic Enhancement

UK offers peer tutoring for over 30 undergraduate courses through The Study, part of the Academic Enhancement unit in Undergraduate Education. The courses supported are primarily introductory courses in high-demand majors and STEM. We are opening a second location to offer these services on the north side of campus.

Data suggests a very strong, very positive correlation between accessing the Peer-to-Peer Tutoring (PTP) program for first year courses and student retention at the university from first to second fall. The chart below shows the impact PTP access has had on retention for the last six first-year cohorts:

bar chart showing PTP attendees vs. non-attendeesIn addition, Academic Enhancement offers Study Smarter Seminars, a one-time, three hour non-credit course designed to help students study more effectively and efficiently. The majority of students who utilize this seminar are first-year students.

Undergraduate Studies and Stuckert Career Center Reorganization

The Division of Undergraduate Education has initiated a restructuring of advising for undeclared students and career development. This involves linking the advising unit with the Stuckert Career Center. The staff in these two units will be asked to work together to develop more integrated services that connect academic advising and career exploration/development. The goal of this service re-alignment is to engage students in academic and career exploration as soon as they arrive on campus and help them consider majors, skills, and knowledge needed in relation to future careers.

Together we at UK continue to make improvements in our First Year Experience. And this means an improvement in our first year retention rates: UK’s 1-2nd Fall retention rate for the Fall 2013 cohort was 82.1%, the second year we have exceeded 82%.

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