Harvest Collier on student success

Harvest Collier, a professor of chemistry, served several years in the early 21st century as vice provost for undergraduate studies.  He discusses his efforts in that role to make the campus more focused upon student success.

Audio transcript

The most significant experience was to be able to report to the campus that we had an 88% first-year retention ever, for the first time ever. And even more so, you had a high minority student retention, first year retention, it was in the low 90s, 91, 92%. So to have reached that goal, you know, I was expecting, I was expecting I’d be fully supported and everybody would join in and buy in, and “whatever you want to do Collier, you bring it on!”

(Chuckle)

LARRY: . . .  just do it. And chancellor made a comment, “Well AA or that’s, that’s pretty good, why don’t you make it 90?”

Yeah, I remember Jack Carney saying that. Yeah. (Chuckle)

But I, I think just for us to demonstrate that we could improve strategically to have a predictable, sound improvement is just pretentious, because it was based on the kinds of things that needed to be done. And as those changes were occurring, the impact in terms of the bottom line and it was real nice. Maybe the more quantitative thing, there was good improvement in the focus on student academic success. The faculty paying attention too, besides that. If I don’t provide a syllabus to students to have expectations of what my course required, it’s still going to be throw them out there and I’ll throw the stuff at you and if you get it fine, and if you don’t, see you next semester. And so, I think that’s, that’s something that’s 

and even just improving the learning

not just that academic grades and that’s the same thing. Improving the learning environment from the students. And particularly the student learning outcome. And that fact that accreditation requirements have changed and requiring that we be accountable for student learning outcomes. Although that was a struggle of a process, it still led to bringing awareness to the campus that being accountable for student learning outcomes is really important, so just for us to move down that path I think is really good.

LARRY: And a big salute from the Higher Learning Commission when they came and saw that 2009 document.

Yeah, absolutely. I still remember, after they left, jumping up and clicking my heels.

LARRY: Yeah.

(Chuckle and inaudible)

That was outstanding. And actually being able to set strategic goals for undergraduate student graduation criteria. To do it realistically and to see us moving at least in that direction . . . and improvement in graduation rate, I think it’s important. You know one of the, one of the most significant testimonies that I recall ever receiving was from parents that were alumni that brought their students to S&T to attend to complete their degrees. And so during those days when they’d come to registration and I get the opportunity to stand there in front of them and tell them about what the institution is doing to help students be even more successful and to hear the numerous comments from most parents saying “Man I wish I had that when I was a student.” That to me is a very significant testimony to how the institution has changed and the fact that I was confident in talking about those changes and how they were impacting the students, that was pretty good.

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