MCCC’s first-time college student retention rate increased by 20% from 2019 to 2020, said Scott Behrens, vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Success.
Behrens said he attributes this increase to the changes he and his team have made.
Behrens created three positions with the goal of taking a more proactive approach to student support: director of Student Success, Student Success and Retention navigator, and Student Success navigator in the Math department.
The director of Student Success will oversee both the library and tutoring, Behrens said.
Previously, the director of the Library was separate from the Student Success Department.
“By putting them all under one umbrella, it gives them the opportunity to collaborate,” Behrens said. “It’s really exciting. We’re already starting to see some of that happen.”
Behrens has been looking for the right candidate for the director of Student Success, and a decision will be made soon, he said.
Another reason for this change was to dedicate more resources to tutoring.
“We’re reorganizing a little bit to get more support and leadership there,” Behrens said.
In September, Behrens hired Damaris Sargent, Student Success and Retention navigator. His job is to reach out to faculty to identify students who may be in need of academic support.
Sargent said he also schedules students for tutoring appointments, directs students to the correct resources, and sends emails to check on how students are doing in their classes.
“I’m kind of like a one-stop shop,” Sargent said.
Because Sargent is still new to this position, he is still training with Behrens.
“He has a wealth of knowledge,” Sargent said. “This guy knows his stuff. When he speaks, I listen.”
In July, Behrens hired Brianna Pio, Student Success navigator in the Math department.
“We wanted to target math because it’s a high barrier,” Behrens said.
Pio is a full time tutor who also creates workshops, primarily offering students support in foundational math classes.
“I think we’re trying to turn it around so we’re the ones reaching out to students,” Pio said.
Her position was funded entirely by a grant from DTE, Behrens said. Due to this grant, the position change, and a retirement, there was no cost associated with the departmental changes.
While MCCC employs student tutors, Pio’s position is more involved.
Student tutors have more limited hours and are not responsible for creating workshops or reaching out to students like Pio is.
However, both student tutors and Pio work in the Student Success Center in the Founders Hall, said Pio.
The Student Success center was created with funding from the largest donation MCCC has ever received, said Joshua Myers, executive director of The Foundation.
Of the 1.1 million dollars donated by Gary Vacjner, $500,000 was used for the Student Success Center.
Vacjner named the central academic commons in the Founders Hall in honor of his now deceased wife, Myers said. Its official title is “Gary J. and Patricia A. Vajcner Academic Commons.”
Behrens and his team came up with a numerical way to define student success. Their long-term goal is to increase MCCC’s graduation rate.
“Student success to me is very simple,” Behrens said. “The goal is to help students get from enrolling in the college to obtaining their degree or certification.”