Recently, more than 55 student success professionals and Starfish partners gathered together at the Hobsons offices in Cincinnati, OH for a Student Success Summit. The two-day event combined thought leadership, hands-on workshops, peer panel discussions, and social gatherings in order to inform and inspire those who are working hard on their campuses to ensure students achieve their academic and life goals. There were so many important takeaways from the event, but several key themes emerged that are helping us here at Starfish think about how we approach our work.

Bridging Research and Practice

We’re all interested in helping students succeed, but sometimes it’s difficult to see things from their point of view. Dr. Loralyn Taylor from Ohio University kicked off the first day by sharing her research on how to make communications with students more powerful.

Drawing on behavioral psychology principles, Dr. Taylor’s research shows how “nudges,” like texting and early alerts, can be used to improve the student experience and impact student success. For example, Ohio University uses mobile nudging to provide “just in time” information to students that can help them avoid barriers to persistence…alerts such as upcoming deadlines, hold notices, course sequencing issues, and graduation requirements.

Dr. Taylor helped bridge the gap between research and practice by offering ways that practitioners can implement small, short-term interventions that make a big difference in student engagement and persistence.

Keeping Students at the Center

Starfish is the proud recipient of the 2017 Complete College America’s Seal of Approval for our work on Guided Pathways. And, we were fortunate enough to be joined by CCA’s Vice President of Strategy, Momentum Pathways and Purpose First, Dr. Dhanfu Elston. Dr. Elston is behind many national student success programs that are helping colleges and universities across the country increase completion and attainment rates.

Dr. Elston brought home that we have to have students at the table when thinking through and implementing student success initiatives. And, many of our attendees shared ways they are doing this: from sending progress surveys, to holding focus groups with peer mentors, to testing communications with students and using their feedback to design the messages being sent out to help students.

Another important point, emphasized by Dr. Taylor, is that “student success is what the student thinks it is.” Students enter higher education with many different goals – whether it’s to get a 4-year degree, 2-year degree, a certificate, or even just to take a few classes for professional development. For Starfish, we’re always thinking how we can innovate and move our solution in the direction to support students no matter where they are or what their goals are.

Student Success Takes a Team Approach

Our Summit included a panel discussion on an important student success challenge that we know many of our partners face: Faculty Engagement. Leaders from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Penn State University, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis helped facilitate a conversation around effective ways to engage faculty and increase their adoption of student success technology.

John Grant, Dean of Student Development at NWTC, emphasized that faculty buy-in is not “nice to have,” it is essential. NWTC helps their faculty feel connected to the process through soliciting feedback, providing consistent communications and by offering positive reinforcement. (You can hear more from John Grant about faculty engagement in our student success spotlight webinar. Download here.)

But a major theme across the board from all our panelists was that creating a student success culture requires involvement from more than just the people on the front line working with students. Having leaders at every level of the system, from provosts to department heads to associate deans who can speak to the value and importance of student success and technology is critical to ensuring that faculty and staff feel invested in student success on campus.

David Smith from Penn State University summed it up best: “We’re helping students be successful by supporting them with teams because student success is a team approach.”

Power in Community

At Hobsons, we believe in the power of bringing the student success community together. And, that power was in full force during our Summit. It was incredibly inspiring to see Starfish clients and non-clients alike collaborating together and sharing ideas, experiences, and approaches toward student success. Learning from peers is a powerful way to speed student success at one’s own institution, and we feel confident that many left Cincinnati with action items to help them plan for the future.

We’re excited to be offering more events like this over the next year. If you’re a student success practitioner interested in learning more about how to leverage technology to close equity gaps, support guided pathways methodology, make data-informed decisions, and increase student and faculty engagement, consider attending our upcoming event in the state of Washington. Learn more and register here.

And, you can join hundreds of your student success colleagues at our annual user conference this July. More information on Hobsons Summer Institute can be found on our website

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