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May 11, 2023
MSU Denver Faculty and Staff,
Congratulations on wrapping up another great semester at MSU Denver! Tomorrow we reap the rewards of all our had work, celebrating over 2,000 students becoming graduates at Commencement and recognizing that none of that would be possible without all of you! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
As we look forward to summer and we all hopefully get a chance to catch our breath, I want to provide an update on where we are headed as a University and give you some things to think about in the months ahead.
Two years ago, we introduced our “Recover, Stabilize, LAUNCH!” framework as we were finalizing our 2030 Strategic Plan and charting our course out of the pandemic. During the most challenging times, we proactively planned how we would recover from the shocks of Covid-19, stabilize our enrollment and build the foundation to help us launch toward our Strategic Plan goals.
Recover: We strengthened and in some cases repaired our administrative backbone and updated our data analytics enterprise so that we could truly operationalize the Strategic Plan.
Stabilize: We overhauled our budget processes to be more strategic and invested in data informed strategies (aka “Stuff That Works”) to help enrollment.
Launch: Now, we’re building on all this great work to truly launch toward our goals.
The biggest key to our launch is student retention, the one thing in our flywheel from which everything else turns. You’ve probably heard me calling out our huge gains in new student recruitment this year, which has helped curb our overall enrollment decline, but retention is the rocket fuel needed to launch. Retaining our students and helping them on their journey to graduation is essential to achieving our mission of providing students with an enriching education and sending them on to successful lives and careers. And for every percentage point we boost retention, we add roughly $1 million to the University budget, thus not only improving a critical student success outcome and fulfilling our commitment to the students we recruit, but also providing us the financial sustainability and flexibility needed to reach even more students with the supports we know work.
I have charged Provost Ad Interim Marie Mora and Vice President for Student Affairs Will Simpkins with leading the effort to cultivate a clear plan for student success. We ramped up this work this semester, especially in April when we gathered over 100 leaders from across the University including the department chairs, deans and the Senior Leadership Team for an interactive workshop on evidence-based, data-driven strategies for student success and to examine which strategies are best suited for MSU Denver. Based on the feedback, which Dr. Mora and Dr. Simpkins shared out to attendees this week, we are looking at issues related to faculty and staff workload, advising, and curriculum amongst others that will bend the retention curve. Watch the Early Bird over the summer for information on a new webpage, where we will share more takeaways from this workshop and track the ongoing progress.
This is part of a reinvigorated, data-driven focus on student success, with a specific eye toward retention and graduation, as we begin operationalizing our Strategic Plan Pillars I and II with synergies for Pillars III, IV and V. We’ll be forming a student success launch taskforce to align with the retention work underway in the Faculty Workload Taskforce, which was stood up in March under the leadership of Dr. Mora and Dr. Meredith Jeffers. The student success group will begin the ongoing cycle of assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation to reach our Strategic Plan student success goals.
The trustees will hear a presentation on this work at the June 1 Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting, and Will and Marie will lead deep dives this summer to help inform our launch efforts in the fall. I know you will have questions about this work, and there will be plenty of opportunities to engage in the summer and fall. This is the beginning of a multi-year process to make sure our structures, processes, curriculum and technology are clearly aligned so that we provide our students the optimal atmosphere to succeed.
We realize there have been many past and ongoing efforts to improve retention, but what we are doing now is bringing everyone together for an intentional, cohesive, University-wide focus informed by data. We often say we know what works at MSU Denver; the challenge is prioritizing, aligning and scaling our best ideas and systems so that we are rowing in the same direction and not operating in silos. Retention is everyone’s job, and soon we will identify the best tactics to move the needle, help you see your part in that work, and work together toward launching sustainable student success strategies. Thank you for your partnership!
Janine Davidson, Ph.D.