Andrea Wheeler, faculty fellow for student success in the office of the senior vice president and provost, spoke to the Professional and Scientific (P&S) Council Sept. 7 about the Best Next Steps Program -- a result of the jump-start project to address student retention and success with a focus on first-generation and multicultural students.
Wheeler said the pilot program -- spearheaded by working group members from the provost's office, division of student affairs and representatives from each college -- began this August and will run through July 2026. The group worked with associate deans this spring to discuss college retention plans, identify resource gaps and develop eight initiatives:
- College retention plan - A customizable template created by the working group with categories based on best practices.
- Student retention data dashboard - A dashboard with student retention data tailored to each college.
- Cyclone support specialist - An initiative of the Navigate team in the provost's office that will respond to student requests.
- Cyclone support training - Online training for faculty about student mental health.
- The Exceptional Tutor - Additional training for student tutors and dedicated student tutor preparation time.
- College help rooms - To enable discipline-specific local academic support and enhanced college-level peer tutoring.
- Student assistance specialists - Embedded case managers will address complex student retention issues and assist with the onboarding class (below).
- Online onboarding class - Tentatively planned to launch next summer, the course will include modules on help-seeking practices.
Using a student-centric approach, Wheeler said Best Next Steps leverages college and university-level resources to identify solutions and support for students.
"The collaboration across campus is the key to this work," she said.
Four new councilors were appointed at the meeting to fill vacancies -- Sarah Riley, economics; Taylor Gerdes, chemistry; Susan Ray, institutional research and Julieanne Rogowski, Iowa State Online.
The council also discussed its goals for the year, including how to better educate P&S employees on maximizing their benefits package. As part of the discussion around maximizing benefits, university human resources director of benefits Ed Holland presented a demonstration of ALEX, the free interactive online benefits tool made available to employees last fall. Holland shared that ALEX will be updated with new benefits information in early October following the September state Board of Regents meeting.
The next council meeting is Oct. 12 (2:10 p.m., 3560 Memorial Union).