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Academic and Student Affairs restructured to better support students

Changes include integration and expansion of support services, enhanced career preparation and focus on pedagogy.

By Matt Watson

December 14, 2017

MSU Denver students on campus.At a Pizza with the President event last week, attendees heard an upperclassman discuss her experience in the First Year Success program and how helpful it was to have so much support. That experience was close to a decade ago – the student struggled after her first year and dropped out of school, partly due to what she called the jarring drop-off in support she felt after her first year, and has only now returned to complete her degree.

Stories like hers are why MSU Denver administrators have been working to restructure Academic and Student Affairs to better serve more students regardless of how many credits they have or if they transfer to MSU Denver from another institution. Sandra Haynes, vice president for Academic Affairs and deputy provost; Lori Kester, associate vice president for Enrollment Management; and Braelin Pantel, associate vice president for Student Engagement and Wellness and dean of students, weighed in with five major takeaways from the restructure, which goes into effect Jan. 2 when employees return from winter break.

1. “Roadways” will support students from application to alumni.

Roadways is the new signature program that will provide interventions and supports in the areas of orientation, transfer and transition, exploratory advising, academic and scholarship support, and peer mentorship. By combining these services into one enhanced unit, the limitations that students faced in discreet programs will disappear, and Roadways will better provide wraparound support to students from the beginning of their academic journey through graduation – then welcome them back as engaged alumni.

“There has been a lot of national attention paid to the first year of college as a focus area, Pantel said. “The antiquated way of thinking about student support was, ‘As long as we get them through that first year they’ll be fine,’ but we know that’s not true of our students. There’s a lot of compelling data out there that speaks to the need to support transfer students and all students beyond just that first year.”

The First Year Success program did not serve transfer students, who make up more than half the student body.

“Roadways will provide that support for students from start to finish and making sure that they’re taking the amazing things that First Year Success has been doing and expanding it to all students,” said Kester, who will oversee Roadways and its executive director, Lunden MacDonald.

2. The Center for Equity and Student Achievement is expanding to support more students with integrated services.

CESA is expanding to include two existing campus programs, the LGBTQ Center and Veteran and Military Student Services, while adding two new ones – the Center for Multicultural Excellence and Inclusion, or CMEI, and a first-generation student success program. As with Roadways, reorganizing services will provide more opportunities to provide students with more streamlined support.

“There’s a lot of intersection of students who benefit from our programs. CESA provides a really good framework to enable the services and opportunities for students to mirror that holistic aspect of identity, rather than focusing on one particular thing,” Pantel said.

The new programs will begin development and outreach to students in January with more formal kickoffs in Fall 2018. Cynthia Baron will serve as director of CMEI, with Juan Gallegos serving as assistant director and continuing his Brother-to-Brother leadership as part of CMEI.

Colleen Toomey will coordinate the first-gen student success program. Brandi Scott will continue to lead CESA with the new title of associate dean for equity and student achievement, reporting to Pantel.

3. Career Pathways will be a point of emphasis on campus and in the community.

A new unit called Career Pathways will incorporate the Applied Learning Center and Career Services to provide Roadrunners with a more robust path to internships and jobs.

“One of President Davidson’s hopes for the institution is for us to be more proactive in career preparation,” Haynes said. “Getting students experience in jobs as they are moving through a four-year degree program and into their career is in line with her vision for our students – pursuing the American dream.”

Formalizing the existing relationship between the ALC and Career Services will help the University work more seamlessly with employers, providing students with more opportunities and better meeting the needs of the workforce. An executive director will be hired to lead and grow Career Pathways.

“Combined under a single leader, there may be opportunity to do more with workforce development and external relations,” Pantel said. “We’d like to strengthen that and hire someone who can be strategic in terms of where those employer bases are in the community that we may not be tapping as comprehensively as we could.”

4. A national search will be conducted for a new vice president for student affairs position.

A new vice president for student affairs will be hired to oversee Enrollment Management, Student Engagement and Wellness, and Career Pathways.

“That’s a new position. We’re looking for a search firm to begin searching, likely in January,” Haynes said. “We want to do the absolute best national search that we can because we want the absolute best person for the job.”

Watch the Early Bird in the spring for a job description and updates on the search committee selection.

5. Academic affairs will focus more on pedagogy.

On the academic side, Haynes said there will be a renewed commitment to teaching methods.

A director of Undergraduate Studies will be hired to oversee departments centered around high-impact practices, such as the Honors Program, the Center for Individualized Learning, and International Studies.

With Michael Kolb resuming faculty duties next fall, Jeff Loats, a nationally recognized expert in higher education pedagogy, will be the new director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, reporting to Chad Harris, associate vice president for curriculum and academic effectiveness. Harris will now also oversee the Access Center.

The structural changes described above will make space for an even greater appreciation for and emphasis on the high-quality pedagogy employed by MSU Denver faculty. “Student success is impacted largely by faculty, so we want to make sure our faculty are exposed to the best new ideas for teaching,” Haynes said.

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