Editor’s Note: This is the third in an occasional series of posts regarding student retention efforts in various campus departments.
The Department of English uses one of the oldest traditions to connect 21st century students with faculty.
Breaking bread at a required Friday afternoon or Saturday morning workshop is one way the department gets students to interact with each other and with faculty. But sharing a meal is far from the only strategy the department uses to become one of the best departments at UCCS at retaining students.
“In 2010, we reorganized our curriculum on an English studies model,” Lesley Ginsberg, associate professor and chair, Department of English, said. “We now have several different paths within the major that allow students to select an emphasis that fits their passion.”
The options include rhetoric and writing, literature, professional and technical writing and elementary, secondary or special education. But it’s more than developing curricular options and ensuring they are academically rigorous. The department conducts biannual workshops to help students understand the different options, and to select one that fits best with their career goals. At the workshops, faculty lead discussions of a previously assigned common reading to illustrate the perspectives offered by the different areas of emphasis. The common readings and food help break down barriers leading to questions and conversations about different approaches to English studies. Department alumni are invited and offer counsel.
“Students are introduced to an adviser within the department and have the opportunity to start planning their course career within the major,” Ginsberg said of the workshops.
While the workshops and curricula are unique, Ginsberg believes the department’s smaller classes and writing-intensive focus also lead to improved student retention.
“Our faculty know our students by name, and often conference with them individually on their papers,” she said. “Students know that their faculty care about their success. That builds camaraderie in the classroom. It’s very powerful.”