Board of Trustees receives updates on how VU is boosting student success

Board of Trustees receives updates on how VU is boosting student success

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August 26, 2021

August 26, 2021

JASPER, Ind. – Vincennes University’s enhanced efforts focusing on student success, learning outcomes, and retention were in the spotlight at the Board of Trustees meeting on the VU Jasper Campus on Wednesday, Aug. 25.

The Board heard from VU Provost Dr. Laura Treanor, who presented a report on retention, completion, and achievement gaps. According to Treanor, the University is working in three key areas to improve these measures: retention efforts; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council work; and continuous quality improvement efforts. 

She highlighted the work of the DEI Council, which includes developing a culture of success for all students. She shared VU has improved overall retention rates over each of the past three years, but there is still room for improvement. 

Treanor detailed VU’s newest student-driven initiative that has the potential to lead to significant student outcomes and boost student engagement. The University recently launched CircleIn, a National Science Foundation-funded and researched all-in-one studying app.

“CircleIn capitalizes on what is very key with our student population right now, which is gamification where they are all about points, badges, and earning things,” Treanor said. “Students are actually going to be rewarded for engaging in behaviors that we know are associated with academic success.”

VU is one of 25 institutions utilizing the app which bridges the gap between class and when students do their homework. The app enables VU students to study together anywhere, any time.

“Although we have a lot of people ready, willing, and able to help students, they are going to go to a peer first if they can,” Treanor said. “We essentially adopted CircleIn with three goals in mind. We wanted to build community and we wanted to build peer-to-peer interaction. We wanted to make access to resources easier, and we wanted to break down the stigma of seeking help.”

VU President Dr. Chuck Johnson cited a notable example of the University’s success in helping students to persist and graduate. 

He pointed to a recent Indiana Commission for Higher Education report that announced VU was among the state institutions with the greatest one-year improvements in on-time graduation rates in 2020, despite seismic shifts caused by the global pandemic. VU’s on-time completion rate improved to 33 percent, which is substantially above the national average for community colleges, noted Johnson. 

Johnson said, “VU faculty and staff are doing many great things in order to help our students to graduate, and CircleIn is an example of the focus on retention and student success that Dr. Treanor and her team have led.”

VU Director of Admissions Ryan Barbauld noted in his report that community colleges continue to see enrollment declines this fall as 9.5 percent fewer students enrolled. He shared positive news that VU’s Distance Education numbers were up this past year and Dual Credit and Early College enrollment bounced back strong this past year. Enrollment overall will be close to flat in total headcount for Fall Semester 2021, according to Barbauld. He said efforts and initiatives are in place to communicate and capture more students who decided to sit out a semester due to burnout caused by the pandemic or other factors for Spring Semester 2022.

The Board also heard from VU Jasper Assistant Vice President and Dean Christian Blome. He highlighted the extraordinary expansion of the Dubois County Scholastic Excellence Awards, which award full-tuition scholarships and provide other resources to eligible students. It welcomed its largest cohort of 37 recipients to the VU Jasper campus this semester. Blome also shared that through its partnership with the Patoka Valley Career and Technical Cooperative, VU Jasper continues to see growth in its part-time student enrollment and it is up 82.4 percent this year.

Blome and the VU Jasper team were praised by Johnson for their outstanding work of cultivating unique and interesting partnerships.

“I’m very proud to say that what is happening at VUJ is really the model of a modern community college,” Johnson said. “This campus is central to the community, and it's becoming even more core with every new program and partnership opportunity we have.”

In other business,

  • The Board approved an extension of the University’s strategic plan that focuses on six important strategic priorities through 2025.
  • The Board authorized University administration to work out terms granting a drainage easement for a new apartment project being planned for a location adjacent to the VU Jasper campus.
  • A list of recipients of the 2021 Peer Recognition Awards was shared with the Board. The staff and faculty will be honored with a future ceremony.
  • Student Trustee Conner McKinney of Sumner, Illinois, was recognized for his service and contributions to VU. McKinney’s term expires in October.
  • Johnson commended Trustee and North Knox School Corporation Superintendent Darrel Bobe on North Knox Jr./Sr. High School being the sole Indiana school recognized by Special Olympics North America with National Unified Champion Banner status for its Champions Together Program. Johnson also congratulated Trustee Kelly Clauss for recently being awarded the Rotary Club of Jasper's 2021 ATHENA International Leadership Award.