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Underserved Student Success in High-Impact Practices: A New Model of Retention Leadership

Author: Carleen M. Vande Zande, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh


This case study narrative is part of a “How-To” guide to help campuses use date to work toward inclusive excellence.

As a campus participant in the AAC&U Give Students a Compass project, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh examines university-wide processes and practices through the frameworks of inclusive excellence, retention leadership and student achievement. In an attempt to increase the retention of underrepresented students, the university promotes an inquiry model focusing on underserved student participation and performance in high-impact practices. Underserved students are defined as transfer, minority, first generation, and Pell eligible students. This case study focuses on a campus wide inquiry model used to evaluate student success in select high impact practices and the effectiveness of university retention strategies. The Compass project team identified two main inquiry questions centering on underserved student initiatives and student success.

  1. How can the university increase the participation of underserved and transfer students in high impact practices to enhance inclusive excellence?
  2. How can the university assist students and academic support programs to meet the distinct needs of transfer students so that they can be more successfully integrated into the university?

This case study will assist any campus to build on the momentum created by campus initiatives such as liberal education reform, an analysis of underserved student performance through the Center For Urban Education’s Equity Scorecard, a review of campus academic support services, or analysis of NSSE data. The evolution of the campus inquiry model promoted through the Compass project encourages questions about access, excellence, campus receptivity, and the opportunity for institutional learning as underserved students complete degree requirements and forge a pathway of success.