Montana State University Billings

Montana State University Billings Chancellor Mark Nook arrived on campus as the new university chancellor in July 2014, armed with a commitment to dedicate the campus to the ideals of student success. That commitment led first to a year-long research and analysis effort by the Student Success Committee (SSC), a council of faculty, staff, students, administrators, and community members.

The chancellor’s charge required the SSC to hew to three principles:

  1. to maintain focus on the university mission and motto of Access and Excellence in order to continue to provide broad access to higher education and seek to deliver an excellent education to all committed to reaching their educational goals;
  2. to take into account the diverse nature of the students MSUB serves and research the best practices in serving traditional students, adult students, at-risk populations including underrepresented minorities, international students, first-generation students, and low-income students; and
  3. to research best practices in supporting all students as they persist to graduation including freshman seminars, learning/living communities, peer mentoring/tutoring, and early warning systems, with particular focus on those aimed at improving student success in key academic courses that have high rates of students dropping out or receiving grades of D or F.

Student Success Innovations at Montana State University Billings.

The SSC issued a report in October, 2015, outlining major initiative recommendations for the campus that were backed by research into state-of-the-art practices in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The SSC’s recommendations fell into two broad categories: Gateway/High DFWI Courses, focusing on enhancement of developmental education, through linked or co-requisite courses & student cohorts; integration of Structured Learning Assistance programs into the curriculum, and revisions of the University General Education program; and Holistic, Multi-Tiered Advising, which included development of a faculty-initiated MSUB-tailored early alert system, revisions to the First Year Seminar, implementation of peer mentoring models, and analysis of training and procedures for both faculty and staff advisors.

In pursuit of the first of these goals, the university engaged the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education and its three-year Gateways to Completion (G2C) program. The G2C program is intended to help faculty use a data-intensive approach to finding and implementing a wide variety of active learning techniques that have proven effective in mitigating traditionally high DFWI rates in these gateway (generally, General Education) courses. The interventions adopted in the G2C courses thus far, including such practices as flipped classrooms and Supplemental Instruction, have proven remarkably successful in increasing engagement by both faculty and students in these high-risk courses. In pursuit of the SSC’s second goals, a broadly representative Enrollment Management Council has begun work redefining the institution’s approaches to orientation, the First Year Seminar, living-learning communities, and the development of intensive advising training for faculty and staff advisors, and the development of an advising syllabus. Work on all of these initiatives continues, thanks to the dedication of the MSUB community in pursuit of the vision of Chancellor Nook to meet every student where they are and work with them to help them attain their educational, professional, and personal life goals.

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