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September 23, 2009

SFC on Leading Edge for College Student Retention

Monica Michalski & Steven Catalano to Present at National Symposium

St. Francis College, proud to be on the leading edge for college student retention, will be sharing some of its successful programs at the National Symposium on Student Retention next week in Buffalo. Monica Michalski, Assistant Dean Freshman Studies & Academic Enhancement and Steven Catalano, Director of Institutional Research and Planning will present their paper, “Improving Student Persistence and Success: A Data-Driven Approach.”

The conference is aimed at sharing successful strategies used by colleges across the country to help students stay in college and earn their degrees. “Our job as educators is not just to bring students into our halls,” said Assistant Dean Michalski. “The real work starts once they get here. It’s our responsibility to make sure we do everything possible to help them earn a degree.”

The presentation discusses the formation of a retention committee at St. Francis College which analyzed enrollment policies, student persistence and graduation rates. The findings and recommendations of the committee led to improvements in existing programs like Project Access, which offers additional support such as tutoring, remedial classes and a one-on-one counselor to students who show potential but enter with lower scores. Other results of the committee findings were the introduction of four major early-intervention initiatives for at-risk students. These efforts have led to an increase in the number of students who declared their major early and has resulted in an increase in the number of students completing the work for their Bachelor’s degree.

“Study after study shows that people with college degrees earn significantly more money than those without,” said Director Catalano, who is also an adjunct professor, teaching courses in Information Technology. “We are not fulfilling our mission if we don’t try to give all our students that edge.”

As participants in the conference, we were asked to prepare a paper detailing the ongoing retention initiatives and programs (such as Project Access) that have been developed and implemented at St. Francis College. These initiatives are based upon retention literature as well as our analysis of both internal and external enrollment, persistence and graduation data.

Over the summer, Assistant Dean Michalski presented her work, A Case Study of Positive and Effective Approaches to Using CSI Data for Student Growth during a web conference. This work focused on creative approaches to training academic advisors in using student data to better engage students in one-on-one advisement sessions, to improve how to teach college coping strategies to freshmen and to better target outreach to students.

Michalski was also the featured speaker in March at another web conference, How We Retain More Students By Intervening Earlier, sponsored by Noel-Levitz, a leader in Higher Education consulting. During that conference, she spoke about the freshman / sophomore year experience at St. Francis College and how the College uses data to promote student retention.

In addition, to her work with Freshman Studies, Michalski is also an adjunct professor at St. Francis College, teaching two courses on Positive Psychology. The intro and seminar level classes are dedicated to the growing movement in the psychology field that seeks to re-balance the attention paid to mental illness with a focus on positive strengths and characteristics.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

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