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Jan. 31, 2013

Freshmen excel with advising assistance

By Brittney Schmies

Cleveland State’s largest freshmen class is proving to be the most successful freshmen class as well.

The 1,500-plus freshmen students who started this fall brought in more than just high enrollment numbersn — they raised the bars of freshmen credits earned and GPA.

The average number of credits freshmen earned in the fall semester was 12.6, an increase of 1.96 percent compared to last year’s 10.91 credits earned, while the percentage of credits earned rose to 84 percent, compared to last year’s 76 percent. The number of students earning a GPA of 2.0 or higher reached 77 percent, a six percent increase from the past.

In a Board of Trustees Academic Affairs Committee meeting, George Walker, interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, cited advising as one of the steps toward success. In addition to intrusive advising, multi-term registration allowed students to plan ahead and stay on track for success.

The success of the freshmen cannot be singly attributed to one thing in a collective groupof initiatives, but the changes and efforts of advising is one area in particular that seems to really be impacting the students.

David Bowditch, director of exploratory advising, said the work of the advising department has been helpful in the whole improvement because it is getting down to tracking and monitoring the freshmen closely.

Additional advising tools available to students are making communication between advisors and students easier on both ends. The Starfish program available provides students and advisors with attendance information. It also has alerts to inform students and advisors of progress and problems that may be occurring and kudos which allows instructors and advisors to send encouragement to the students.

Katie Moore, a freshmen nursing student, regards advising as a very important part of her success at Cleveland State.

The advising department has also hired Student Success Specialists to help intrusively intervene with students. They have made it mandatory for students to meet with an advisor before dropping or adding a class. This helps detour students from not doing well in a class, dropping it and falling behind.

“I contact my advisor at least once a month, but if needed, I can meet with her on a weekly basis,” said Moore.

While there are no requirements about how often a freshmen student meets with an advisor, the success specialists are able to spend more one on one time with students in order to help them.

“Specialists and other advisors are working very hard to improve relationships with students,” said Bowditch, “building that connection makes a difference.”

Along with advising, utilizing the self-monitoring tools is key to being successful. The Grad Express Degree Audits, Degree Maps and Starfish are what Eric Yeager, manager of undergraduate curriculum, calls the additional tools in the students’ toolbox to help them succeed.

“My advisors recommend I use tools such as Blackboard Learn, Grad Express and CampusNet to monitor my progress, additionally, they told me to go the tutoring center and writing center if I need help with my classwork,” said Moore.

Alyssa Palechka, a senior health science major, also was told to utilize the tools offered by the university when she met with her advisor; however her contact with advisors was much less.

“I spoke with a general advisor twice, and she was very friendly, but pretty much told me that the online degree audit was sufficient enough and if I still wanted to come see her she was more than happy to,” said Palechka.

Changes made to advising and self-monitoring tools have the best interest of students in mind. The success of this current freshmen class is proof that the efforts of Cleveland State and dedication of the students are working.

“I am very happy with CSU advising and I’d be lost if it wasn’t for their guidance,” said Moore.

As far as advice for the students Bowditch and Yeager agree that getting help is the best steps for being successful as a student.

“Get help early, utilize the resources the best you can,” said Bowditch, “and we’ll do everything we can to help you out."