Editor’s note: EAB’s Annie Yi and Natalia Alvarez Diaz presented this information at our national Student Success Collaborative summit, CONNECTED19. Their speech has been lightly edited and adapted for the web by Emily Arnim.
Throughout their college journey, students make thousands of choices—from where to live, to which major to select, to how much time to spend studying for exams. However, students often fail to calculate the downstream consequences before making such decisions.
This matter is compounded by the fact that institutions—though they may elevate the moments that could be pivotal to students—may not provide insight as to why those moments matter. For instance, a student who chooses to withdraw from a course might not understand that by doing so, he is compromising his financial aid eligibility.
Faculty can and should play a role in helping students to understand the connections between their actions and their goals. But are faculty given the chance to experience this themselves, and therefore be better stewards of student success?
The role of faculty in student success
We know that faculty play a significant role in student success not only within the classroom, but also as mentors, advisors, and support systems.
Even more, faculty play a critical role in encouraging underrepresented students and identifying students who could use more support, according to EAB research. “Faculty have tremendous potential for helping elevate student success rates, writes EAB’s Ed Venit for in a blog post. “As instructors, faculty members have more face-to-face contact with students than almost anyone else on campus.”
That’s why California State University, Fullerton (CSU Fullerton) created a new opportunity to engage faculty in student success.
A new way to engage faculty in student success
While creating insightful moments for students is important in helping students make informed decisions, creating insightful moments for faculty can also pay off, CSU Fullerton found.
However, rather than follow a traditional faculty development model to discuss the importance of student success—such as inviting faculty to campus over the weekend for a professional development workshop—CSU Fullerton tried something different. They simply added a new form to their student portal. The form asked students to submit 150-200 word nominations for faculty excellence outside of the classroom. That was the caveat—the nomination had to come from something other than teaching.
To celebrate the faculty nominations, CSU Fullerton organized a luncheon, inviting all faculty to attend. At the luncheon, each submission from the portal was read aloud and printed in a booklet for everyone to take home.
During the event, several students shared how one professor was reverent and respectful to their stories. Another student recognized a faculty member who helped them make all travel and logistical arrangements for their summer internship. Other students simply wanted to call out the times their faculty advisor supported them through the trials of college and life.
Professors and faculty at the luncheon were moved by the stories, not realizing the impact they had had on their students.
The luncheon event was so successful that the following year, department chairs, deans, and even faculty who were not nominated all showed up to the event. In a compressed amount of time, this moment helped crystallize for faculty the connection between meaningful faculty support and the success that students are able to achieve.
Read more about pivotal moments
Pivotal moments can mean the difference between success and failure for your students. Here's how to help students navigate them, according to EAB experts at CONNECTED19.
Students can't successfully navigate pivotal moments if they don't know how to recognize them. Here's how one community college restructured orientation to improve communication surrounding pivotal moments—ultimately reducing summer melt.