Graduation initiative discussed at forum


Joseph Sheley, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, discussed the achievement gap at the Graduation Initiative Forum in the University Union on Thursday.

Lauren Greenwood

Academic Affairs and Student Affairs discussed a new graduation initiative at an informational forum in the University Union on Thursday.

The new initiative seeks to increase graduation rates of students and reduce the graduation rate gap between underrepresented minority students and non-underrepresented minority students.

“The changes the initiative talks about are going to cause 8.5 earthquakes with the epicenter in my office. General Education is the only program directly referenced in this report,” said Janet Hecsh, professor of education and the chair of the general education committee.

Nancy Lapp, professor of government, acknowledged that perhaps one of the reasons for the untimely graduation rates was due to advising.

“Course advising is a huge piece to increasing graduation rates. I don’t know how to bridge that. I don’t know if students get bad advising and that slows them down,” Lapp said.

While discussing the initiative, many said that the faculty should be more involved in increasing graduation rates.

“The faculty truly need to get involved in improving graduation rates,” said Juanita Barrena, professor of biological sciences and the director of science education equity program. “They need cultural sensitivity and diversity training to reach all kinds of students.”

Kimberly Gordon Biddle, professor of child development, disagreed with Barrena. Faculty want to get involved with students and they care deeply about the students, Biddle said.

“The conflict for me is that we don’t get credit for doing mentoring,” Biddle said. “You don’t have to pay us more, but at least acknowledge our work and give us credit.”Attendees wanted to further discuss the implications of the initiative and ideas that would improve graduation rates, but there was not enough time.

Academic Affairs and Student Affairs will hold two more forums during April and May.

“The key is getting right groups of people together to frame this challenge,” said Joseph Sheley, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “We need to put our arms around it and get started. We still need to close the achievement gap.”