To: Oregon State University Community

From: Edward Feser, Provost and Executive Vice President

October 2, 2018

At OSU, we are committed to the success of all our students -- undergraduate and graduate.

With respect to undergraduate academic achievement, we are working to raise the first-year rate of retention of all students to 90 percent, raise the six-year graduation rate to 70 percent, and equalize success for students from every background. The academic achievement of our graduate students, and their success as scholars and professionals after they leave OSU, is also of critical importance to us. The Graduate School is leading our graduate student success effort, drawing on the expertise and advice of our faculty, graduate students, staff, academic and support units, and leadership.

These are important and challenging goals and opportunities. To achieve them, we need a shared, university-wide effort that marshals our central and college resources and draws on the expertise and roles of our faculty at all ranks, students themselves, our campus and academic unit-based advisors and staff, and university leadership at every level.

In January, I appointed the Undergraduate Student Success Initiative Steering Committee (USSI-SC) and charged it with taking stock of our progress; soliciting the advice of our faculty, staff and students; and overseeing the development and implementation of a new university-wide plan to advance our undergraduate student success goals. Following campus-wide conversations last spring, and a summit in April, the committee completed the first phase of its work. The USSI-SC report is available at https://leadership.oregonstate.edu/provost/student-success-initiative/student-success-summit/ussi-report

The USSI-SC recommends that we focus within five areas:

  • The transition experience. We must better support students’ transition into OSU, whether from high school, community college or as an older adult. We also must build a culture that fosters deeper relationships between students and faculty, with an emphasis on mentoring.
  • Financial aid and scholarships. We must be more effective and efficient in distributing financial aid and scholarships to those whose success will most be advanced through financial support.
  • Faculty-student engagement. We must significantly expand faculty-student interactions outside of the classroom to enhance student connections with faculty within their field of study, by focusing, in particular, on the first two years students spend at OSU.
  • Curricular excellence. We must strengthen our curricula in the baccalaureate core and degree programs, streamline processes governing innovations in course and program development, support instructional excellence and course redesign in high attrition courses, and improve articulation processes for transferring course credit.
  • Experiential learning and research. Given our research mission and strong evidence that experiential learning and involvement in faculty research activities improve persistence, we must expand access to high impact experiential learning and research opportunities for undergraduate students.

While we will work to make progress in all five areas, we will place special attention this year on improving students’ transition experience. An effective transition to OSU is foundationally important to everything that follows. The USSI-SC will be recommending a detailed set of actions designed to help us retain more students at OSU and set them on the path to timely graduation.

As an important initial step toward improving the transition experience, we already have launched a pilot Faculty-Student Mentor Program. As of this writing, 130 faculty members across the campus have volunteered to serve as mentors and we have enrolled approximately 300 students as mentees. In addition, all of our colleges are undertaking renewed efforts to strengthen the orientation and support they provide students during their transition year to OSU.

Meanwhile, we are continuing the implementation of a number of initiatives informed by Oregon State’s participation in the University Innovation Alliance, especially related to advising practices, financial intervention and technology enhancements like predictive analytics and chatbots.

Later this academic year, the USSI-SC will host a second undergraduate student success summit to report on progress to date and again seek your input on how we can work together to best help our undergraduate students to succeed.

Your ongoing engagement is essential to these efforts. With your participation and commitment to enhancing our student experience, learning environments and support services, all students will find success at Oregon State University.

Sincerely,

Edward Feser
Provost and Executive Vice President