FAMU faculty members discussed proposals Wednesday to learn about innovative ways to increase retention of students. At a noon meeting in Perry Paige Auditorium, Dorothy Henderson, dean of General Studies, and Willie Butler, an assistant professor in the history department revealed approaches that would assist in defining and assessing retention needs of students.
Henderson said the establishment of the Freshman/Sophomore year Experience Program would promote retention and academic progression of the first and second year students at the University.
“FSYE would provide a smooth adjustment to college for first-time-in-college students,” Henderson said. “Students don’t see the significance of the classes they take in the lower division; therefore, we need to provide intrusive academic advisement for first and second year students.”
Henderson said the program would be committed to the belief that the academic, social and professional experiences of freshman and sophomores are enhanced.
“There needs to be an integration of academic advising and career counseling in order to ensure that students are prepared for upper division at the end of four or five semesters of continuous enrollment,” she said.
Butler agreed, but also said that the retention problem affects students in their junior year as well. “Juniors are also at risk for academic suspension and academic probation,” Butler said. “Students are leaving for other reasons and we need to implement intrusive humanist approach with advisement, counseling and tutoring to retain students.”
Butler recommended that the University offer a major in General/Liberal Studies as a way to reduce losing students. “A major in General/Liberal Studies has improved student retention and graduation rates at schools such as Alabama State University, Alcorn State University and American University.
One of Henderson’s recommendations was for the University to provide social activities that promote student-faculty interaction, student-student interaction and co-curricular involvement.
Second-year graduate student Alvin Benton agreed.
“We do need more faculty-student interaction,” he said. “The faculty needs to connect with students and help them to address their goals.”
Benton said faculty members need to care about students. “The number of faculty who care is disproportion to the number of students,” said the history and political science student from Atlanta. “Everyone is not a merit scholar and those in between students get forgotten.”
President Fred Gainous, was also present at the forum, agreed. Gainous said FAMU is a great institution made by great faculty and great student and the gap between those who leave and those who graduate must be bridged.
“For 116 years we’ve said ‘yes’ to the students,” Gainous said. “I don’t know many things more significant than the retention of our students.”