Dr. Ginger Zierdt introduced the project goals as actions that will dramatically improve students’ learning quality of experience and success in the first year, and to increase retention rates.
Out of the 450 other state colleges who have a membership with the American Association for State Colleges and Universities, Minnesota State University, Mankato has chosen to become a partner organization. Zierdt said that together, the entities will strive for the purpose in examining current policies, and so, giving future students a more satisfied learning environment.
“The more you plan and the more you start envisioning where you could be, there’s more for us to do,” Zierdt said. However, she clarified that this proposal was an application rather than a grant, and that the partnership will create an informational network.
Together they developed a process they intended to present as a question to students about their shared governments. Zierdt said she hoped students will unify and seek an answer as to what would distinguish their university campus from others, especially in first students feeling connected. In small group or individual conversations, Zierdt has discovered that within six weeks of a student’s first year at the campus, that student decides whether they will stay.
So last year, AASCU developed a list of questions for any student who would like to submit their answers to it. The list is as follows:
1. What significant reform has your institution successfully undertaken in the past five years that would suggest that it has the capacity to successfully engage in a major institutional transformation project?
2. Describe a successful collaboration with another institution or with a community partner that would demonstrate the capacity of your campus to benefit from in participating in a national project with other partners?
3. What are some specific work have you already undertaken in the first year to improve retention, learning outcomes, and student success?
4. What are specific areas of improvement, reform, and transformation in the first year on your campus that you would like to consider focusing on if you are a part of this project?
5. What commitments and resources will your campus make available in order to optimize the likelihood that your participation in the project will result in broad, substantive institutional change?
6. What do you think your campus can offer in expertise, experience, or other attributes to other participating campuses?
7. Why do you want to participate in this project?
Then Zierdt directed the MSSA’s attention to the color wheel in the packet she had handed to them at the beginning of her presentation. The seven strategies had been based off the abilities, wills, and desires and include questions such as:
1. First Year Seminar Redesign
2. Gateway Course Study
3. Exploratory Tracks and Advising Communities
4. Belonging and Growth Mindset
5. Student Success Data Work Group
6. University Communications
In her research and collecting answers, Zierdt discovered not every student attends the first-year seminar, as well as not all information is relevant and up-to-date. Also, students have a high percentage of fail rate in some of the general classes.
Zierdt said she thought of the best way to figure out way is to find out what insight is lacking and provide more understanding as well as coordinating advising for students in determining their major.
“This project, while awesome, has a lot of work ahead and that’s why we need your help,” Ginger said.
Speaker Fred de Ruiter opened the table up for any questions the senators would like to ask Zierdt.
“I want to say that the transition from high school to college is very important,” said Senator Aaron Klaus. “It may be more difficult for they don’t understand that the work at the university may be difficult and there is a lot of responsibility.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” Zierdt said, adding that she had also discovered students who had transferred for their first year.
Next, Cindy Janney discussed room and board rates consultation in relation to their changes within the next year. Board charges consists of food expenses or anything else related to the dining hall. Usually Rayani said that the weighted average increase rates are anywhere from two to six percent, but for this year, it will be right at 4.1 percent. The Residence Hall Association is the biggest voice Janney pays attention to since it is made up of the students who live on campus, so if they want something done, they address their need to Janney who presents at the MSSA meetings. For instance, last year, water filters were added to the base cost at the expense of $6 extra for each student.
In other business matters, Dan McEssy, graduate student from Recognized Student Organizations (RSO) and Leadership, told about an upcoming leadership retreat sometime in January but he has not picked a specified date yet. He also said “Leadership U” relates to leadership skills such as communication and hosts workshops every Tuesday at 5 p.m. Last year the group met a success of a 75 percent increase since it had changed to a student-led board.
McKayla Murphy informed the MSSA of open forums on race that will happen on Dec. 6 from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The purpose of the event is to provide the opportunity to network with area businesses in Greater Mankato and other community leaders. If any students express interest in attending, they can contact President Rayani or Vice President Ruiz so the event will be free of charge to them when it is typically $40.
During open forum, Senator Kayla Cremers presented Students of Today, Leaders for Tomorrow, a spring break that involves traveling through several states and conduct community service and volunteering. At the end of the time spent, Cremers said students rack up 30 hours of community service.
“You learn valuable leadership skills and you build strong friendships,” Cremers added, and invited anyone who wanted to come along to contact her for more details.
As part of his report, Rayani also said that the MSSA is recruiting focus groups for climate study, which involves gaging the current status of diversity, including how it is on-campus. For anyone who might like to participate, he said to contact either him or Ruiz through email.