To: Oregon State University colleagues

From: Edward Feser, Provost and Executive Vice President

October 1, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

At Oregon State, our latest strategic plan makes clear our commitment to ensuring that each and every student we enroll reaches their academic goals. The Undergraduate Student Success Initiative (USSI) is critical to our efforts to make good on that commitment.

We are making progress. Our 6-year graduation rate has risen to 67 percent (working toward 70 percent by 2023), and our first-year retention rate has risen to 84 percent (targeting 90 percent by 2023). Yet, our pace of improvement remains slow and significant gaps in achievement—between white students and students of color, between higher and lower income students, and between students for whom at least one parent attended college and first-generation college students—persist.

Since January, 2018, Dean of Science Roy Haggerty and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Dan Larson have led the USSI Steering Committee, assisted by colleagues from across campus. The Steering Committee began by taking stock of current projects and issuing recommendations on how to focus and accelerate our progress. Work is well underway on a number of those recommendations, including improving faculty-student interactions through organized mentoring. The Faculty-Student Mentor Program—piloted last year and continuing this year—is showing early promise in improving student progression.

We are setting up a rotation model for leading the USSI Steering Committee. I am pleased to announce that Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Alix Gitelman will take over from Dan Larson for a two-year term co-leading the USSI Steering Committee. I want to thank Dan for his exceptional work as co-chair and for remaining an active member of the committee going forward. Roy Haggerty will complete an additional year as co-chair.

We provide a special kind of undergraduate education as a land grant university changing the world with our discoveries and innovation. Delivering on the promise of that education for every student is an enormous responsibility. It requires curricula that are relevant, teaching that inspires, and research and outreach that engage. Above all, it requires teaching and research faculty who are responsive to the rich community of our students, including their diversity of experiences, identities, and levels of preparation. Very important beyond the classrooms and laboratories are all others at OSU who deliver critical co-curricular and extra-curricular support, advising, and student life services.

To further accelerate our work, we are organizing the work of USSI under five subcommittees:

  • Transition Experience, co-chaired by Vicki Ebbeck and Jesse Nelson;
  • Financial Aid and Scholarships, co-chaired by Toni Doolen and Keith Raab;
  • Faculty-Student Interactions, co-chaired by Penny Diebel and Rebecca Mathern;
  • Experiential and Research-based Learning, co-chaired by Daniel López-Cevallos and Randy Rosenberger;
  • Curricular Excellence, co-chaired by John Edwards and JoAnne Bunnage.

Each subcommittee is charged with recommending changes or additions to programs, policies, and processes in these areas of the university. I am grateful to the subcommittee co-chairs for their willingness to lead these important groups.

Please lend a hand to the USSI if you are asked. Challenge practices that needlessly impede student progression and achievement. Bring your ideas and energy to closing achievement gaps and ensuring all students have maximum opportunity to reach their academic goals. Find ways to involve more undergraduates in our discovery mission and in opportunities to learn through experience. Lastly, put March 5, 2020 on your calendar to participate in the third annual Undergraduate Student Success Summit, where we will again come together as community of educators to exchange ideas and share results.

Have a great start to the fall term, and thank you for all you do for OSU.

Edward Feser
Provost and Executive Vice President