Retention improvements spur ALANA emphasis

ALANA enrollment has reached an all-time high this fall, but graduation rates have left SGA officials wondering if the recent achievements are enough, according to the University’s recent press conference. Assigned by the President’s Commission on Racial Diversity, Gregory Herman Jr. is spearheading new SGA research on ALANA student retention. “The research is not focused on the dropout rates of ALANA, but rather their retention,” Herman said. “‘Dropout’ implies that the students leave UVM and do not complete their undergraduate degree elsewhere.” Herman said he recently received statistics of the retention and graduation rates of ALANA students and non-ALANA students from Chris Lucier, vice president for Enrollment Management. “The data will be analyzed and put into different graphs,” Herman said. “Once that occurs, the data collected will be compared to other schools that have similar demographics to the University of Vermont just to see where we stand in comparison to other universities.” Herman’s research has advocates, such as retention and assessment coordinator for the ALANA Center Khristian Kemp-DeLisser. “I do think the research would be beneficial,” Kemp-DeLisser said. “I think there is a misconception about how students of color perform when compared to white students. Since there are fewer students of color to keep track of, when one of them leaves it has a more significant impact on the statistics.” Herman’s research is connected to the University’s long-term improvement efforts toward racial diversity. “The retention of ALANA students has been a focus for many years,” Herman said. “The President’s Commission on Racial Diversity submitted a series of recommendations to President Fogel and Provost Bramley in June 2004, which focused on recruitment, retention, curriculum and climate. The President’s Commission on Racial Diversity grew out of the President’s Task Force on Racial Diversity, established in January 2002.” The University has also organized more recent efforts. “This academic year, under the Provost’s leadership, we are deep in the midst of an integrated effort to address student success and satisfaction … [and] guide our operational and strategic actions to improve our retention and graduation rates,” Lucier said.  The data analysis will lead to observations of what services are currently being offered and what services should be offered to improve the experience of our ALANA students, Herman said. The main service is the ALANA Center. “We listen carefully to what our student community tells us and advocate for their needs on a personal and institutional level,” ALANA Center Director Beverly Colston said. “We keep current on information regarding student of color retention and success and use this information to keep our colleagues updated as well.” “I am happy about our first-year retention numbers,” Colston said. “I’d like to understand why more of our ALANA [and] multi-racial students don’t persist to graduation. When do we lose them and why?” Colston said that no one should not make assumptions based on the numbers, and instead care about the student narrative. “It’s critical that we pay attention to the student experience behind the numbers,” she said. “Although first-year retention numbers are high, how do our students feel about attending UVM?”  Herman says that the services can and will be improved but focus on ALANA student retention will persist. “The retention of ALANA students is not something that will go away after research is done,” Herman said. “As the University changes, so will the services. Therefore, I would hope that the focus of ALANA student retention will not ever end but rather the initiatives be different depending on what is needed.”