Senators see early results of student retention efforts

Senators received an update on the early impact of student retention efforts during fall semester at the Faculty Senate's Jan. 24 meeting.

Student success and retention is one of President Wendy Wintersteen's nine jump-start projects for the 2022-31 strategic plan. The three-year project received $1.5 million to increase graduation rates and help students at risk of leaving Iowa State, including those who are first generation, multicultural and are significantly impacted by the pandemic.

The Academic Success Center (ASC) received $150,000 for supplemental instruction and tutoring. Colleges also received $150,000 to expand tutoring and help rooms, especially for classes with high D, F and withdrawal rates, said Andrea Wheeler, faculty fellow for student success in the office of the senior vice president and provost.

ASC director Adriana Gonzalez-Elliott said money was used to increase the number of undergraduate tutors by improving pay to $15 an hour. Supplemental instructors also were added to a 100-level economics and math course at the midpoint of the semester. Students who attended the supplemental instruction sessions in the economics course had an average grade of 3.02 compared to 2.73 for those who did not. In the math course, the difference was 2.84 to 2.58.

Since becoming ASC director in the fall, Gonzalez-Elliott increased the size of tutoring groups from five to eight for high-demand courses. The center also partners with colleges to assist in help room trainings and developed the academic success navigator.

"It is an intake unit," Gonzalez-Elliott said. "I hope it alleviates the burden on campus to know the ins and outs of our services. The only expectation is for anyone meeting with a student who is unsure of what they need or where to begin, they can be referred here. It provides an individualized approach to connect students to resources at the center and across campus."

Wheeler also provided numerous examples of efforts at the college level that included peer-mentoring, tutoring and matching funds to increase support. She said a working group made up of unit directors, advisors and faculty has been formed to implement initiatives and help develop retention plans across campus.

Artificial intelligence

Associate provost for academic programs Ann Marie VanDerZanden spoke about the increased use of artificial intelligence, specifically ChatGPT, by students and how faculty may choose to address it. ChatGPT, the latest example of artificial intelligence (AI) capable of producing human-like text, can be used to write papers, develop art and write computer code among other tasks. It is different from previous chatbots because it can answer questions without being explicitly told the answer using its own intellect. 

"It is the latest example of artificial intelligence that is not only impacting higher ed, but essentially every sector we can think of," she said.

VanDerZanden said a group has been formed with members from across campus to develop a document to aid faculty that includes syllabus recommendations.

"It would tell the students when AI is strictly prohibited, when AI might be allowed with attribution, when AI is encouraged with some tasks and when it might be something you incorporate in your pedagogy," she said.

VanDerZanden said faculty will be provided with a list of the most recent technology used to detect when AI is used, but cautioned that the information becomes outdated almost as fast as it is developed.

To prevent student use of AI, faculty may consider how they test students' knowledge. Oral exams, debates or, in an extreme case, returning to handwritten blue book exams.

"Don't hide from it and let the students know you are aware of it," she said.


Rahul Parsa (finance) was voted the next president-elect. He will take office in May, when president Jon Perkins (accounting) passes the gavel to president-elect Sarah Bennett-George (apparel, events and hospitality management).

Tim Bigelow (electrical and computer engineering) was elected chair of the resource policies and allocations council. He will serve as chair for the remainder of the spring semester, replacing Mikesch Muecke (architecture), who resigned his senate seat Dec. 31. Another election will be held later this spring to elect a new chair.

Other business

Senators approved:

  • A bachelor's degree in agricultural communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The 128-credit major prepares graduates to communicate science, policy and technology in ag production to numerous audiences.

  • A professional master of business administration in the Ivy College of Business. The part-time graduate program is aimed at working adults and features a hybrid format with weekly in-person classes at the Capital Square Des Moines campus. Electives can be taken in Ames, Des Moines or online. 

  • An asynchronous online master of accounting analytics in the Ivy College of Business. It prepares students for professional certification or licensure. This first-of-its-kind master in the state takes two semesters for full-time students and four for part-time.

  • Numerous changes to the degree planning policy for majors, minors and certificates. Key changes include eliminating the required 30 additional credits above the degree or major requiring the most credits, with exceptions for the Business and Engineering colleges, and modifying the makeup and eligibility of credits for minors and certificates.