The Student Government Association (SGA) meeting this week featured the co-chairs of the University-Wide Retention and Persistence Committee (UWRPC), Michele Norwood and Paula Stossel, providing an update on what UWRPC has been doing to increase student retention.
One of the main topics discussed during the report was the ability to get students who live in the eastern part of Pennsylvania home more frequently.
“The majority of second year students that we lose are east of Dauphin County, which is Harrisburg, so if I can’t get you home on a regular basis…I’ve lost you,” Norwood said.
SGA President David Laughead (political science), who is from outside Philadelphia, brought up the idea of the university possibly partnering with IndiGo to have a bus go to the Johnstown Amtrak station on a weekly basis for students to get home more frequently.
Norwood said that she had not thought of the Johnstown station but will investigate it as a possibility in the future.
Tying into the retention of students in the eastern part of the state is students feeling homesick and not knowing anybody from their hometowns on campus.
While UWRPC hasn’t implemented the program yet, as data is still being collected, Stossel said it is looking into connecting incoming freshmen with peer mentors from their areas who can help with their feelings of homesickness.
This would build on UWRPC’s larger intuitive of expanding the presence of peer mentors to incoming freshmen.
The process to develop a “baseline course” for all peer mentoring groups across campus, which will allow for the university’s peer mentoring practices to become nationally certified, is underway. Stossel and Norwood both said that peer mentoring is not something they are expanding for just incoming freshman but any student at the university.
Overall mental health was also a large area of concern that UWRPC identified for students.
“We know that there are some significant challenges and significant needs,” Stossel said.
One area the university is looking to address is the waitlists at the counseling center.
There has also been the recognition of increased parental engagement.
“For some of you, that’s a good thing, and for others, you’re going ‘umm, I’m not so sure about that,’” Stossel said.
Stossel said they are very aware of privacy concerns, but they are looking into different “portal models” that will help parents get information about IUP and what’s going on or, with a student’s permission, more specific information.
They are also using some electronic solutions such as the Just in Case app.
When asked about possible ideas for problems transfer students may be experiencing, Norwood said they were aware that they needed to do more but didn’t know what to do.
“So, if you’re a transfer student, come talk to us,” Norwood said.
Other things handled at the meeting included graduating senior Jordan Dean (hospitality management) outlining his plan to convert unused spaces around campus into “serenity rooms” to help reduce stress on campus.
Dean had previously converted old computer labs at the Washington School of Nursing into “serenity rooms.” He said that post-implementation, retention rose to 91 percent.
Dean was directed to go and speak with the Office of Housing, Residential Living and Dining for further information about the process of possible implementation.
Adrianna Branin (political science), senator for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said that discussions on plus/minus grading system have been tabled until next semester.
And Sustainability Sen. Tyler Menichiello (biology) was selected as senator of the month.
The American Association of Men in Nursing, a club to “provide framework of factors that affect men in nursing,” was approved as an official campus organization.
The American Philanthropic Organization, which is focused on providing help to veterans, was also approved. The organization was previously the Military Philanthropic Organization but left campus to expand and become a national organization.
And finally, the Students Advancing Small Business Club was also approved after failing to meet approval last year. The club will help connect entrepreneurially minded students with possible investors as well as provide other forms of guidance.