Theme 2 Subcommittee Report

Theme 2 – Maximizing Student Success

I. Membership

  • Membership of Theme 2 – Maximizing Student Success comprised of the following individuals:
  • Linda Buckley, Associate Vice President, Academic Planning and Development
  • Arlene Bugayong, Advisor, Educational Opportunity Program
  • Miguel Guerrero, Student, Environmental Sciences
  • Erik Rosegard, Associate Professor, Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism

In addition, the following individuals volunteered to serve on the subcommittee:

  • Kim Altura, Director, Undergraduate Advising Center
  • Sarah Bauer, Director, Student Involvement & Career Center
  • Rebecca Toporek, Associate Professor, Department of Counseling

II. Charge

The Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee’s (SPCC) charge for Theme 2 – Maximizing Student Success was to address the following questions:

  • What have we learned from the extensive work emanating from the Student Success and Graduation Initiative (SSGI)?
  • How can we continue to improve graduation rates and reduce time to degree?
  • How can we continue to improve retention rates?
  • To what extent do gaps in achievement rates persist and how might they be closed?
  • Does the new general education curriculum align with institutional goals for student learning?
  • To what extent are department and program assessment practices aligned with institutional goals and how might we improve those alignments?
  • To what extent are students academically prepared and institutionally supported such that they can effectively transition into the workforce after graduation and how might we improve in this area?

After initial feedback from administration, community, faculty, staff, and students, Theme 2 revised the questions to reflect a broader, more holistic definition of student success:

  • How do you define student success?
  • What motivates students to stay at SF State?
  • What more can the university do to help students continue their education at SF State?
  • What on-campus resources would help students graduate sooner from SF State?
  • Other than on-campus resources, what would help students graduate sooner from SF State?
  • What on-campus resources are most helpful to you at SF State?

III. Values & Goals

Values and goals for Theme Two were generated based on initial feedback from administration, community, faculty, staff, and students. An overarching theme that emerged in the data was a sense of belonging, “mattering.” This need to feel valued, supported, and to be a part of the campus community is also reflected in the literature and research related to persistence and retention (Dixon, Rayle, & Chung, 2007; Goodenow, 1993; Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Thomas, 2012; Tinto, 1997, 1998, 2004). Values of equity and social justice, empowerment, and engagement are critical in nurturing a sense of belongingness and social connectedness among students and SF State.

  1. Equity & Social Justice – to advance inclusion, diversity, social justice, and equity through universal design (i.e., an environment and curriculum that minimizes instruction barriers while maintaining high learning expectations for all students). This is accomplished through creating physical and social environments, student support services, learning outcomes, and teaching methods, materials, and assessments that are evidence based, flexible, and use multiple approaches – not a single system or solution.
  2. Empowerment – to advance the process of empowerment through access, assistance and advocacy, and autonomy:
    1. Access – minimizing barriers to learning, information, on and off campus resources, support services, co-curricular programs and events, faculty, staff, administration, students, and the physical environment.
    2. Assistance and Advocacy – providing, supporting, and promoting student success resources, services, and programs (e.g., advising, counseling, career guidance, academic and wellness initiatives)
    3. Autonomy – empowering students to take ownership, responsibility, and accountability for their education (e.g., learning and skill-building opportunities that strengthen competencies in academic, physical, social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, vocational, financial, and environmental dimensions of wellbeing – Area E and First-Year Experience student learning outcomes)
  3. Engagement – to advance student engagement through curriculum, campus, and community.
    1. Curriculum – providing opportunities (e.g., culminating experiences, active and problem-based learning, group projects, research in the classroom) to engage in relevant and meaningful course content.
    2. Campus – providing on campus opportunities (e.g., co-curricular activities, mentoring programs, office hours, leadership roles, committee/task force representation, collaborative meeting spaces) to engage with faculty, staff, administration, other students, programs and services, and the physical environment at SF State.
    3. Community – providing university-community collaboratives combining education, scholarship, and service that promote relevance and application of course content, address equity and social justice issues, and prepare informed and engaged students.
  4. Efficiency & Effectiveness – to advance the above values (empowerment, engagement, equity and social justice) efficiently and effectively.

IV. Analysis

In the context of student success, the following analysis identifies the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats at SF State (see Table 1).

Table 1: SF State SWOT Analysis

SF State





Culture of equity & social justice

University prioritizing students

Established and successful programs (e.g., Metro Academy)

Existing graduation metrics

Weaknesses (challenges)

Physical space

Resources (e.g., student/advisor ratio)

Knowledge and implementation of best practices

Comprehensive data collection/monitoring



Strategic plan

New hires – new perspectives

Community partnerships

Political radar & funding sources


Future budget cuts

Resistance to change

Competing priorities

Value perception of constituents

V. Results

Quantitative and qualitative analyses were conducted on data gathered from administration, community, faculty, staff, and students (see appendix A). Results focused on feedback addressing the revised Theme Two questions associated with student success (See II. CHARGE). An overarching theme that emerged was a need for a sense of belonging. This need was expressed primarily in two areas: (a) student-centered support services, and (b) student engagement. Each area will be explained followed by recommended strategies and initiatives.

  1. Support Services
    Three student support services (advising, career, tutoring) were prevalent throughout the data and will be the focus of this section and the associated recommendations. Four subthemes emerged within each of the three support services (resources, communication, location, and efficiency). Although SF State student support services provide an invaluable benefit to students and need to be acknowledged for their efforts, the purpose of this section is to identify and prioritize areas in need of improvement.
    1. Resources – results found staffing, administrative support, physical space, and other associated resources to be insufficient. For example, SF State currently has 14 full-time professional academic advisors and 1.5 full-time professional career counselors responsible for serving 30,000+ students – a counselor/advisor to student ratio of 1:2,143 and 1:20,000 respectively. According to the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA 2011), the median caseload is 600 students for one, full-time professional advisor at a large, 4-year public institution.
      Staff at the Undergraduate Advising Center (UAC), Learning Access Center (LAC), and the Campus Academic Resource Program (CARP) acknowledged that they do not have the resources to accommodate all students who need assistance. Student responses supported this assertion:
      I had to wait on the stairs outside the advising center for over an hour and I still didn’t get to see a counselor.
      I had to wait a week to see a tutor and by then my assignment was due.
    2. Communication – faculty and staff as well as students found communication of university deadlines, forms and policies, and other associated student support information to be unorganized, inconsistent, and overwhelming. This finding extended to faculty expectations and the course syllabus (e.g., assignment requirements, grading criteria, due dates). Staff at LAC and CARP argued that improving syllabi clarity and adding more explicit assignment requirements would reduce the number of students requesting tutoring services. Feedback from students included:
      I get so many emails from the university, it’s hard to know what’s important and what’s not.
      It’s impossible to find anything on the website [ ] . . . there’s too much information and I don’t know where to look for the information I need.
      No one could tell me the exact name of the form I had to fill out. Some people called it a waiver, a petition, a change of grade form.
      Faculty need to be more clear in their syllabus. It’s hard to know what they want from you.
    3. Location – results found student support centers (e.g., CARP, LAC, UAC) to be difficult to locate, unaccommodating, and uninviting. For example, only 27% of students and 15% of faculty knew the location of the tutoring centers. Student responses included:
      No one could tell me where the tutoring center was and I ended up in three different buildings before arriving to see that they were closed.
      The advising center is like going into an emergency room.”
    4. Efficiency – results found support services effective, but inefficient. For example, scheduling appointments can be time and resource intensive, but an online scheduling system may increase efficiency and allow for efficient data tracking. Although online forms exist, many do not have directions for completing the forms, while other documents are outdated or do not have the capability to be completed online. Student responses supported this observation:
      Not only was finding the website [UAC] difficult to find, I called four times in one hour only to get a busy signal or a machine telling me to call back later.
      I spent a week filling out forms and getting signatures just to drop [withdraw from] a course that ended up being the teacher’s fault.
  2. Student Engagement
    • Student engagement was another primary theme that emerged from the data and was evident across four of the six revised Theme 2 questions:
    • How do you define student success?
    • What motivates students to stay at SF State?
    • What more can the university do to help students continue their education at SF State?
    • Other than on-campus resources, what would help students graduate sooner from SF State?

Specifically, being able to engage with curriculum, faculty, and the campus community were top student responses. An underlying theme expressed by students was the need for a sense of belonging. These findings are consistent with the literature and research supporting the concept of student engagement as a strong predictor of increased persistence, academic performance, and graduation rates – student success (Astin, 1993; Barnett & Whitford, 2013; Chickering & Gamson, 1987; Kahu, 2013; Kuh, 2002, 2003; Kuh, Cruce, Shoup, & Kinzie, 2008; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Tinto, 2012).

In addition, SF State has participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) on five separate occasions since 2002. In reviewing the 2008 and 2011 data, results show an overall increase in student engagement from 2008 to 2011 at SF State. However, results showed statistically significant lower means in the majority of questions pertaining to curriculum, faculty, campus, and community engagement when compared to other participating CSU campuses (see Table 2).

Table 2: Student Engagement means for SF State and CSU

Student Engagement





CSU (2011)



Participated in a community-based project




Practicum, internship, field experience, co-op experience




Participating in co-curricular activities






Relationships with faculty members




Talked about career plans with a faculty member or advisor




Relationships with other students




Relationships with administrative personnel and offices






Attending campus events and activities




Providing needed support to help you succeed academically




Helping you cope with your non-academic responsibilities




Providing needed support to thrive socially






Community service or volunteer work




Contributing to the welfare of your community




* p<.001 (2-tailed)

VI. Strategies & Initiatives

Recommended strategies and initiatives are based on the above results and relevant literature. The primary strategy is to research and implement initiatives that empower and engage students while addressing equity and social justice. In addition, the strategy is for initiatives to be effective (based on systematic and continuous assessment and evaluation) and efficient (sustainable with regards to resources and associated funding). A set of empirically-based initiatives include the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ high impact practices (e.g., first-year seminars and experiences, writing-intensive courses, service learning, collaborative assignments and projects, capstone courses and projects). Of the high impact practices, the first-year seminar and experiences would incorporate all the identified values and goals (see Table 3).

Table 3: First-Year Experience Rubric





Advising (e.g., GE/major requirements, registration, double counting, prerequisites)

Academic (e.g., test taking strategies, active listening, information literacy, academic integrity)

Personal (e.g., time management, personal finances, social competency, healthy behaviors)

Professional (e.g., career networking, resume & cover letter writing, professionalism, leadership)

Community (e.g., community service learning, social capital, diversity, social justice, equity)

Personal (e.g., on campus resources, balance)

Teaching (e.g., high impact practices, universal design for learning, evidence-based pedagogy, academic technology, teaching philosophy, CTFD)

Research (e.g., funding opportunities, grant writing, student research, IRB, policies, PI forms, classroom & community research, ORSP)

Service (e.g., networking, community service learning, consulting, guest speakers, campus opportunities, ICCE)


Learning topics allow students to transition easier, make better decisions, and become less dependent on student support services

Learning topics allow faculty to better transition to higher education, receive clear and consistent expectations, develop social support network


Learning topics provide students with the necessary tools and resources to become engaged with curriculum, and actively involved with campus and community

Learning topics increases probability of faculty-student engagement as well as development of relevant and meaningful assignments that engage campus and community

Equity & Social Justice

Empowering ALL first year students with knowledge, skills, and resources begins the process of addressing equity and social justice issues

Awareness of universal design for learning principles will increase probability of a course that


Empowering and engaging students with their education (curriculum, campus, community) reduces dependency on student support services

Learning topics create increased efficiency with teaching allowing more time for research, faculty-student interaction, and campus/community service


Literature supports first-year experience and continuous monitoring and evaluation will maintain effectiveness

Literature supports first-year experience and continuous monitoring and evaluation will maintain effectiveness

The following initiatives begin the process of developing student support and student engagement programs and services that have the potential for maximizing student success.

A. Student Support Services (advising, career, tutoring)


  1. Charge an existing committee (Student Affairs Committee or Student Success and Graduation Initiative Taskforce) or create a Student Support Services learning community/task force/committee comprised of students, staff, and faculty with gathering resources, collecting additional data, exploring partnerships, researching best practices, identifying and securing funding sources, implementing programs, establishing baselines and benchmarks, monitoring and evaluating programs, and disseminating progress and results.
  2. Educate and market the importance of student success and student-centered learning to faculty and staff
  3. Consult with the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) and National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) to determine appropriate student-academic advisor and student-career counselor ratios.
  4. Evaluate existing services and programs (e.g., UAC, LAC, CARP, GatorAider program) in terms of specific location, communication, efficiencies, and resources.
  5. Research other support service models including other CSU campuses, and identify a model that best fits SF State culture and student demographics and psychographics.
  6. Identify stable funding source(s) for tutoring services other than lottery funds.
  7. Identify redundancies and research best practices in student support efficiencies (e.g., technology, online forms, online scheduling, accessibility, messaging consistency and timing).
  8. Place student support services on Academic Senate agenda and draft related resolutions and/or policies.


  1. Scale up successful student support and student engagement programs based on above initiatives.
  2. Strengthen students assisting students (peer tutoring and mentoring) programs.
  3. Develop policies to explicitly recognize increased student-faculty contact, advising, and mentoring (e.g., release time, RTP).
  4. Develop online tools for self-advising and self-tutoring (e.g., SF State YouTube channel, webinars, “Kahn” videos).
  5. Draft and circulate a first-year program and associated curriculum, co-curricular activities, and assessment.
  6. Develop informal tutoring programs and physical spaces.


  1. Centralize student success services in one location.
  2. Invest money or resources to lower student/advisor ratio and fund other needed student support services.
  3. Strengthen university culture around student-centered learning.
  4. Implement a coherent, first-year experience that develops ownership, responsibility, and accountability for academic, personal, and professional development. Specifically, experiences that introduce and strengthen competencies associated with student support services (e.g., self-advising, note taking, test taking strategies, active listening, information literacy, self-assessment and monitoring, time management techniques, career preparation, reading and writing skills, and experience in each of the nine wellbeing components – social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, vocational, environmental, cultural, physical, financial)

B. Student Engagement (curriculum, campus, community)


  1. Charge an existing committee (Faculty Affairs Committee or Student Success and Graduation Initiative Taskforce) or create a Student Engagement learning community/task force/committee comprised of students, staff, and faculty charged with gathering resources, collecting additional data, exploring partnerships, researching best practices, identifying and securing funding sources, implementing programs, establishing baselines and benchmarks, monitoring and evaluating programs, and disseminating progress and results.
  2. Collect resources and invite speakers on student engagement topics (e.g., empirically-based pedagogy, universal design for learning).
  3. Strengthen communication between academic affairs, faculty development, and student affairs.
  4. Educate and market the importance of engaged students and an engaged campus.”
  5. Place student engagement on the Academic Senate agenda.
  6. Research first-year experience trends, challenges, opportunities, best practices.
  7. Research models for faculty development (e.g., certificate programs, workshops, online webinars, conferences) and funding sources (e.g., release time, stipends, grant funding).


  1. Strengthen community-service learning partnerships, access, and recognition.
  2. Strengthen experiential education opportunities (e.g., internships, field work, community service learning).
  3. Program iLearn and/or CMS to identify students having difficulty in class during beginning of semester (i.e., early alert system).
  4. Develop and circulate faculty development program (e.g., curriculum, meeting frequency and duration, learning outcomes, tangibles, funding).


  1. Establish Institute or approve cluster hire around student engagement.
  2. Create a university culture focused on student engagement vs. “teaching”
  3. Require mandatory student orientation programs with significant faculty and staff interaction.
  4. Require all new faculty and staff to be “certified” in student engagement, and recognize via new RTP policy, .2 release time.
  5. Implement a first-year experience for students and faculty that require engagement with curriculum, campus, and community.

Appendix A

Theme 2 Feedback

Feedback was obtained through a variety of methods (e.g., campus departments, programs, and other resources; existing SF State data sources) from the following events or groups:

Campus Resources

  • Academic Planning and Development
  • Academic Resources
  • Academic Technology
  • American Language Institute
  • Bargaining Units (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13)
  • Campus Academic Resource Program (CARP)
  • Campus Recreation
  • College of Business
  • College of Education
  • College of Ethnic Studies
  • College of Extended Learning
  • College of Health and Social Sciences
  • College of Liberal and Creative Arts
  • College of Science and Engineering
  • Division of Graduate Studies
  • Division of Undergraduate Studies
  • Faculty Affairs and Professional Development
  • Learning Access Center (LAC)
  • Library faculty
  • Office of Research and Sponsored Projects
  • Provost’s Council (Deans)
  • Provost’s Office
  • Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Department
  • Residence halls
  • Student Affairs & Enrollment Management
  • Student Involvement and Career Center
  • Student Success and Graduate Initiative task force
  • Students, Staff, Faculty, Administration (Student Success Qualtrics Survey)
  • Undergraduate Advising
  • University Research Council
  • Women and Gender Studies Department

Existing SF State Data Sources