Creating a Culture of Retention: A Focus on Faculty

Creating a Culture of Retention: A Focus on Faculty

Tyler L McClain

Assistant Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

Much progress has been made by Dixie State University (DSU) in breaking down silos and making student retention a campus-wide endeavor. Emphasis has been placed on engaging faculty in the process, and helping them understand the pivotal role they play in the student departure decision.

The Agenda

Dr. David Roos introduces two models to help shape our understanding of student retention. Followed by a retention formula and a bell curve representation of student attrition. He introduces the unique opportunities to influence student intent at DSU and explains how they have focused on their faculty as a key role in their retention initiatives.

Models & Formulas

Using Tinto’s Student Departure Model, Dr. Roos shares how the faculty interactions play a specific role in determining a student departure decision. He then connected his focus on the faculty to Bean and Eaton’s Psychological Model of Student Retention, where intermediate outcomes are directly related to a student's academic integration and performance. Continuing to expand on his point about the types and frequency of engagement with students, Dr. Roos explained Seidman’s retention formula.

Influencing Student Intent

Dr. Roos explained at DSU less than 10% of students reside on campus. Primary interactions are in the classroom. Many students drive to campus, go to class, and then often go home or to a job or off-campus apartment. Thus faculty are a key factor in student retention at DSU.

“Research has shown that faculty and their interaction with students are key to student retention. When we actively engage students in the learning process and create a climate of support, they are more likely to persist and earn a DSU degree. We know that the “Dixie Spirit” is alive and well and is conveyed by many faculty and staff to students on a daily basis. As a campus I know that we can continue to improve, and I endorse the recommendations on this web page. They are research-based and have shown to positively impact student retention. Thank you for your dedication and the important work that you do in educating our students and preparing them for successful lives and careers.” – DSU President Richard B. Williams

Faculty Role with Retention

Through various programs DSU has begun to create an engaged learning experience for their faculty that focuses on how they can support student success. They have conducted focus groups with both full time tenure track and adjunct faculty. Outcomes from these focus groups led to the creating of the DSU retention fact sheet and a website focused on how faculty can share ideas and engage with ways to improve student success at DSU.

Engaged Learning

This past spring DSU hosted a teaching and learning conference for their faculty and prior to that the hosted a student success summit for faculty, with over 100 of their full time faculty in attendance. Over the past year the Center for Teaching and Learning has hosted monthly workshops for faculty focused on student success.

Faculty Input

DSU hosted focus groups with both full time and adjunct faculty to gain a better understanding of their knowledge around student success and retention. During these focus groups three questions were the primary focus of the conversation.

  • What do you know about retention and how is it measured?
  • What is the faculty role with student retention?
  • What are your current retention practices?

They learned that many faculty are already trying to think of way to improve their engagement with students in the classroom, which leads to improved retention. However, faculty expressed a concern around the appropriate levels of challenge and support for their students. With many young adults lacking the ability to persist in the midst of adversity and positively cope with stress, DSU faculty recognize the importance of developing higher levels of resiliency (Connor & Davidson, 2003).

“Student-Faculty interaction has a stronger relationship to student satisfaction with the college experience than any other involvement variable, or indeed, any other student or institutional characteristic.” —Alexander Astin

The Real Facts about DSU Retention

Faculty were unclear about how student retention was defined at DSU and did not know the retention rates, thus a retention fact sheet was created. It included comparative data for peer institutions and longitudinal data about why students are leaving DSU. As well as, a curated top 10 list of best practices for faculty to help improve retention.

Retention Website

Knowing that a fact sheet would not be enough, DSU also created a website focused on faculty and their role in retention. It serves a virtual location to motivate and provide Faculty with training resources. Videos of students sharing what they like about their faculty, the top 10 list, and a forum for faculty to share ideas are just a few of the resources that have been created.


The Webinar

Watch recorded Webinars and read recent eBooks

Watch Webinar: Creating a Culture of Retention: A Focus on Faculty

About the Presenter

Dr. David Roos is the Executive Director of Enrollment Management at Dixie State University and has nearly 20 years of higher education experience. He completed his doctoral studies in 2012 where he did a quantitative retention study. An interesting fact about Dr. Roos research, if you google “noncognitive risk factors”, his dissertation is near the top of the search. He lives in St. George, Utah and loves to go hiking and biking with his wife and enjoy the 300 days of sunshine every year.

Tyler L McClain

Assistant Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

Dallas, TX