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Motivate faculty to contribute to student retention

March 2, 2022

Ann Amicucci

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

I once sat with a mix of faculty and staff at a conference keynote. The speaker discussed how we could draw on mindset theories to impact students’ academic success. I scribbled notes, but the staff member next to me just listened. “Would you look at that?” she said finally. “The faculty here can’t get enough of this. But not those of us from student success. This is what we learn in graduate school.”

In the EAB Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship, I focused my learning on the faculty role in student retention. How can we motivate faculty, who don’t have a background in student success strategies and are already stretched thin, to contribute to the work of retaining students?

I regularly encounter faculty who think of student retention in terms of finances, equating a retained student with retained tuition dollars and therefore considering retention to be the responsibility of staff and administrators who manage the campus budget.

But as a colleague put it, retaining students is more than a financial question-it’s an ethical one. Retaining our first-year students means we make good on the promise of admission: that not only will we invite you to join our institution, we’ll provide support to ensure you can be successful. Faculty’s communication and relationships with students are key in getting students to stay and succeed in college.

To increase faculty knowledge on student retention, I proposed the creation of a short online course for faculty and teaching assistants delivering first-year courses. These individuals work closely with our students most at risk for not being retained, including first-generation students.

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The course will teach faculty retention strategies through activities such as:

  • Revising syllabi and assignment directions with EAB’s Jargon Reduction Exercise[1] to make documents accessible to first-gen students
  • Reading case studies to learn about struggles students encounter in their first year and how relationships with faculty can address those struggles
  • Watching videos of campus student success leaders to learn how to better connect students with resources like academic advising and our first-year experience office

Staff and faculty colleagues from our campus retention committee and I will collaborate to develop the course.

Drawing on EAB reports like Defining the faculty role in student success, the online course will provide faculty with templates for Canvas announcements, discussion boards, and class activities to enable faculty to embed course strategies in their teaching without a large time commitment.

The wealth of resources written by EAB researchers has been invaluable in the process of proposing this course as have opportunities to brainstorm ideas with other fellows and the EAB team. I plan to implement the course in mid-2022 and look forward to bringing what I’ve learned in the fellowship back to my campus through faculty education.


[1] EAB. (2016). Transforming the first generation college student experience: Tactic implementation toolkit.

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Ann Amicucci and others participated in EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship in fall 2021

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