As an academic department

Departmental efforts to increase retention can be valuable. This page describes some ideas of retention strategies that are effective in retaining students who need additional support as well as those who need additional academic challenge and opportunities.

Utilize the Retention Calendar: REST has developed a list of activities that can be implemented by any department throughout the semester to support student success and retention. Many of the items in the calendar can be facilitated by Slate. If your department is interested in implementing the calendar, please contact us for a consultation!

Add study halls and/or lab hours: Schools and/or departments can host general study hall or open lab hours for students. This gives them a dedicated space and time to study, ask questions of the host(s), access needed classroom materials, and connect with other students. Upper-level students can staff the study halls and open labs, giving them additional ways to get engaged and challenged academically. Curious about what already exists? Contact the Academic Service Coordinator in each school.

Develop discipline specific “Help Rooms”: Departments can develop “help rooms” or “resource centers” for students within their program and to benefit students across campus. High achieving students can be asked to staff these giving them additional ways to get engaged and challenged academically. There are several already on campus:

Establish mentoring programs: Peer mentoring programs can be very effective to connect students with other students further along in the major, students with specific strengths in content areas, and for general support in the college transition.  

Create a clear 4-year degree plan: Develop a worksheet that clearly describes a manageable and realistic 4-year course sequencing plan to support students in developing their path to an on-time graduation. Multiple versions can be created to show how to manage additional opportunities, such as a minor or semester study abroad. 

Study student performance in the major: Regularly assess course outcomes and program level student learning outcomes to identify pinch points in the curriculum such as challenging combinations of courses, high W/D/F courses where additional support might be needed, or other patterns in student performance.   

Review the impact of W/D/F courses on student progression: Examine the implications of W/D/F in required or prerequisite courses in relation to course sequencing and frequency of offerings. Consider opportunities for curricular flexibility to enable continued degree progression (for example, is there an appropriate course that could be substituted for a W/D/F course so a student doesn’t need to wait a full year to retake a fall-only course?).  

Develop departmental advising guides for cohorts: To ensure students are getting consistent information across advisors and are aware of semester- or year-specific information for their cohort, develop advising guides to be used across all advisors.   

Implement a system to identify students who could use encouragement, connections or challenge. 

Establish a recruitment and retention committee in your departmental service opportunities. This committee can be charged with overseeing departmental efforts to support student success. 

Actively build community and cohorts by structuring opportunities for majors and minors to connect with faculty and each other. Examples may include: alumni speaker series, student club, honor society, mentoring program, social media groups, town halls, community conversations etc. 

Recognize and value retention work: For example, at each department meeting, highlight a strategy or a person who is doing excellent retention work. Consider a standing agenda item on a regular basis focused on retention.