Retention Committee Holds Meeting

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the Retention Committee met for their scheduled monthly meeting to continue to discuss information about the college’s retention rates and how they can better support students.

The committee is led by Provost William Clyde who came to Manhattan College in 2010 and started the committee that fall.

When arriving at Manhattan College, the Provost noticed that the Enrollment Management Committee was focused on bringing in a richly diverse class but there was no attention being paid to the success of the diverse population.

Thus, the Retention Committee was born.

Other committee members include assistant deans, people from student life, Dean [Michael] Carey, Andrew Weingarten, Emmanuel Ago and Marilyn Carter, to name a few.

The committee not only looks at quantitative data but qualitative data that comes in from students through a variety of surveys they take, such as the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) or Mapworks surveys.

Some of the data that the committee discusses includes the retention of students from year to year, the percentages of students retaining in each school, the percentages of males and females, multicultural students, first generation students and veteran students that retain.

The committee looks at the data it collects and tries to come up with ways to better support the students.

“At the heart, our mission is to provide for underserved students and to provide an excellent education and we want to make sure that we’re serving every population and subpopulation that comes here and you can’t do that if you’re not thinking about them,” said Clyde.

The Retention Committee’s increased retention rate goal is not just that; the quantitative data shows that the school’s retention has been on the rise since the committee started implementing changes all throughout the institution.

“The first couple of years that I got here, we were retaining from first to second year at about 83 percent; the college had never had a retention rate of above 87 percent, but since that time, we’ve had two 87 percent, two 88 percent and one 89 percent. We’ve also had some 84 percents and 85 percents but the point is there is kind of an upward trend, regardless of the times we bounce around depending on each class,” said Clyde.

The committee discusses retention on a large scale, looking at all types of populations, relevant demographics and big numbers. Members of the committee may share individual students’ stories that pertain to the larger demographics, but they don’t focus they don’t specifically discuss one individual student’s risk of leaving the school.

Acacia Stevens-Mauriello is MC’s Retention Specialist. With that said, her job is not just limited to the monthly committee meetings.

Stevens-Mauriello has a background in tutoring, academic advising and data analysis and she combines her past experiences to serve her position.

While the committee does not particularly discuss and focus in on individuals, Stevens-Mauriello is a gap between the big picture and the individual, working with both the micro and macro levels of retention.

“I meet with students who are having particular issues and I also review institutional data. I am sort of like a trend spotter. When students are coming in saying they’re having certain issues or we here certain things in the office, I then look at the institutional data and think ‘hm how many more students might be having this issue’ or something like that to see what we can do about it,” said Stevens-Mauriello, “We’re trying to be more proactive about making sure students are successful.”

Stevens-Mauriello also feels that students vocalizing their needs and struggles can not only help the individual student do better but help the institution improve as a whole.

“I think student voice and feedback is very important, so students should always feel free to email or stop into my office and talk if they have a question or need something and aren’t sure where to turn. By doing so, they’ll also help us help more students,” she said.

Assistant Vice President for Academic Success, Marisa Passafiume, looks at retention in a similar way that Stevens-Mauriello does. She works and coordinates operations that pertain to individual students and helps them succeed, keep their academic scholarships and make sure their needs are met.

“While the committee is very data-driven, it hasn’t forgotten to talk about the students. As administrators, sometimes we get lost in numbers and big picture data but that committee has not lost sight of individual students and that’s the beauty of being here at a small school,” said Passafiume, “We see the actual change. A lot of committees, you can sit in meetings all day, but you don’t see the actual change but here, we do.”

Both Stevens-Mauriello and Passafiume talk about the proactivity of their jobs and the committee, as well as the visibility of results.

Both of their positions were created by the Retention Committee.

Clyde also shared that the Center for Academic Success, the Multicultural Center, the Arches program, the veteran services and The Director for Commuter Affairs are all direct results of the Retention Committee. Clyde even noted that at one point, the Arches program was revamped because it was not achieving its intended goals.

The Retention Committee’s conversations have resulted in things that are hard for MC’s current students to imagine campus without, but the committee’s work is far from finished.

“A lot of the ‘obvious’ things we’ve done already [such as] creating the multicultural center, creating the center for academic success, mapworks…  a lot of those basic things we’ve done already, so we don’t have those to do again but I think we constantly have to try to be thinking and gathering data about what the incoming students are doing differently than previous students and do we need to adjust because of it? Do we need to think about it differently?” said Clyde.

Clyde continued.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is get the largest percentage of our incoming students to graduate as possible. We focus on first to second year because that’s where most schools lose the most students and that’s where the transition to college is the most difficult but really the whole path, all the way from beginning all the way to walking out graduating to finding a career, are all things we might talk about. I say there’s more work to be done than we can do. We try to prioritize it the best we can and we’ve had a lot of success but you don’t stay successful just by sitting back and watching, so there will always be a role for this committee.”

Passafiume identifies the committee’s mission as, “Figuring out what is preventing students from performing at their optimal level and then trying to make the necessary adjustments and changes so that every student has the opportunity to come to Manhattan College, learn, be educated and successfully complete their degree and their program of study.”

The committee will continue to meet monthly to resume their discussions of the data surrounding retention and the needs of the student body.