Culture, communication and tactics

During these past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to present and discuss our continuing efforts here at William Paterson concerning student success issues–making sure our students are learning what they say they are learning, and are progressing toward degree completion in a timely fashion.

As noted, these are continuing efforts, and I would imagine there are some here on campus who may be getting a little tired of this emphasis. Well–sorry–this will continue to be an emphasis. To be sure, this is not the only story here at WP, but the efforts and activities we engage in concerning student success are so central to our mission as educators–student success is what we must be about.

So how are our efforts going? We have some good news (continued climb in 4-year graduation rates; a decrease in the number of credits in excess of 120 students have completed by graduation; increase in the number of credits students attempt and earn at the end of their first year, and significant increase for 4th year), and we have some not so good news (6-year graduation rate took a dip, as did our first-to-second year retention rate, continuing a pattern of no real improvement in either of these areas).

As part of these presentations and discussions, the members of the Student Success Team have reported on the initiatives in which we are engaging and on those we are planning.

So to the title of this missive: We have tactics–specific actions and activities, specific people and groups, specific plans. Good–those are needed, and without tactics, we do little to move forward.

But tactics alone are not enough, and tactics will never succeed when they are not clearly communicated and when they run counter to a strong and established culture.

The point: As we continue with our student success efforts, one of the most important activities we must reinforce is communication about the importance of timely graduation. There will always be special cases and special situation, but our overall message has to be that the norm is to finish in four, and our job at WP is to provide the assistance and to eliminate the unnecessary hurdles (some hurdles are necessary–and good for you!) to a timely graduation.

Communication can shift culture and make tactics more effective.