Chancellor’s Town Hall: ‘Helping students the right thing to do’

Chancellor Venkat Reddy opened a Nov. 15 town hall meeting to discuss student success.

Faculty and staff generated hundreds of ideas of how UCCS can take better care of its undergraduate students during a Nov. 15 Chancellor’s Town Hall.

About 125 faculty and staff worked in small groups to answer questions including “What is the best thing our campus (and/or your department) does to keep our current students?” and “What is one wish you have for our campus that would ensure that our students stay and graduate?”

Susan Szpyrka, senior vice chancellor, Administration and Finance, helped start discussions about supporting students at a Nov. 15 town hall meeting.

Questions led to discussions, and to ideas, that will be shared with a newly formed committee charged with improving retention and graduation, a priority for Chancellor Venkat Reddy.

“Retention doesn’t mean dumbing down material or giving candy to students,” Reddy said. “I’m talking about caring for them, knowing that they often come from backgrounds where they’ve experienced difficult things in life. When a first-generation student comes, they may have no one to motivate them. That means we need to take one step further towards them and say ‘we want to help.’”

Reddy worked to put a human face on first to second year retention rates of 65 percent, explaining that of the 2,000 students who attended convocation, 700 will not return for their sophomore year.

He called on faculty and staff to do “the right thing” and work together to improve student success, eliminating perceived barriers between faculty, staff and administration. He leaned on the success of the Mountain Lion Women’s Soccer team to make a point.

“This is a team game,” Reddy said of the university’s forward progress. “Our women’s soccer team wouldn’t win if one player wants to dominate and hit the goal.”

For more than 90 minutes, faculty and staff generated ideas. Those ideas will be compiled and shared as part of plans to improve student success, according to Susan Taylor, interim associate vice chancellor for undergraduate education and academic planning, Academic Affairs.

Erin Mitchler, academic advisor, compiles ideas at a Nov. 15 town hall meeting while Nina Polok, director, Bachelor of Innovation program, and Garrett Gatlin, program director, Chancellors Leadership Class, look on.
Katie Harris, senior academic advisor, takes notes while David Weiss, associate professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, and Deborah Sather, program coordinator, Science Learning Center, look on.

— Photos by Jeffrey M Foster and Tom Hutton

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