We hear a lot these days about the challenges facing college students, from loan debt to an uncertain job market. The College of Liberal Arts has consistently taken the lead in creating innovative solutions for these and other challenges, and our efforts are paying off.
The university has sought our college’s leadership on a number of student success initiatives. In 2011 we led a task force on improving undergraduate graduation rates, prompting major changes in areas such as student advising and orientation and leading to the appointment of Senior Vice Provost David Laude as a “champion” for improving graduation rates.
Last spring UT Austin posted the highest retention rates ever recorded for an entering class, thanks in part to our college’s role in implementing task force recommendations. Laude and Psychology’s David Yeager were also prominently featured for their student success efforts in a New York Times Magazine cover story, “Who Gets to Graduate?”
In addition, Marc Musick, our senior associate dean for student affairs, led two major task force initiatives: the reorganization of New Student Orientation, with greater emphasis on academic preparation; and the creation of the Texas Recruitment and Interview Service—located in the Student Services Building to directly connect students to prospective employers and other opportunities.
At the college level, we introduce students to college life through Liberal Arts 101, an online class that prepares them for rigorous study and gets them thinking from Day One about life after graduation.
When students struggle, we help them avoid academic dismissal with UTurn, an innovative program created by our college in 2009. Data indicate that UTurn students are 25 percent more likely to avoid academic dismissal compared to students who forgo the program, which recently received an Outstanding Advising Program Award from the National Academic Advising Association.
Government junior Sherwin Calderon says UTurn mentors helped him overcome bad habits, learn how to study effectively and manage his time efficiently. Now Calderon is paying it forward by serving as a mentor himself.
In addition to UTurn and other services, our college promotes student success through experiential learning—encouraging students to become involved in campus life as leaders of student organizations, researchers in our labs, and volunteers in our neighborhoods and communities.
We also help students get their first taste of the job market as interns in a variety of businesses and organizations, and we encourage them to gain a global perspective through many study abroad opportunities.
If you engage students early and often, they will stay in school and succeed. And if you reach them in ways that offer a variety of life experiences, they will also see far beyond graduation day, and the limitless possibilities that only a liberal arts education can deliver.
Randy L. Diehl, Dean
David Bruton, Jr. Regents Chair in Liberal Arts