August 6, 2003
Indiana University Bloomington was provided $150,000 dollars beginning in the Spring, 2002 by the Lumina Foundation to engage in a comprehensive review and planning process of retention initiatives throughout the state of Indiana . This was intended to result in the creation of a project that would be a state resource and, eventually, a national leader in developing, analyzing and disseminating information about successful strategies in undergraduate retention and student success.
Throughout the planning process, we sought and listened to the advice of many experts. We were able to elicit the thoughts and best ideas of Betsy Barefoot of the Center for the First Year Experience at the University of South Carolina; John Braxton of Vanderbilt University, whose work on “the student departure puzzle” is the most significant update and rethinking of Tinto; Charles Schroeder of Missouri, who created and implemented his own applied research/program enhancement model while serving as Vice Chancellor; Sylvia Hurtado, who leads the nation in higher education research related to diversity, and whose work is at the core of the University of Michigan's important defense of affirmative action; and leading national researchers and thinkers who work at Indiana University, including George Kuh, Trudy Banta, Nancy Chism, Scott Evenbeck, Don Hossler, Deborah Carter, and Edward St. John. We were also fortunate to speak with Vincent Tinto and Cliff Adelman by phone, and to communicate briefly in person with John Gardner on two occasions.
Our planning process began just as the five-year cycle of funding for the Lilly Endowment Retention Initiatives was expiring. Thus, we were able to bring together at two conferences a group of knowledgeable, enthusiastic leaders from more than 30 of the state's 41 institutions of higher education. It is clear to us that this is a strong community, more vigorous than in most states and more up to date on advances in retention than elsewhere. Nonetheless, it is also a community hungry to move further forward, and to share ideas and results with each other. It is also, we discovered, a community with much more faculty involvement across disciplines than we originally expected, given that the “retention research industry” is primarily dominated by professors of education. Through those experiences we developed the idea of a group of faculty fellows and sample campuses that would conduct new research and work with their campus cultures to implement the best practices we know from existing research.
The staff of the planning project (Jeff McKinney and Pauline Reynolds) has produced an extensive annotated bibliography of significant recent literature on student success. The bibliography will always be an ongoing project; to date, the finished work contains annotations of 150 articles, sorted by category. We also commissioned papers from prominent researchers at IUB. Ed St. John completed his concept paper, “The Influence of State Policies on Postsecondary Attainment: An Evaluation Framework with a Case Study of Indiana,” which will inform much of the work we propose to carry out in the next few years. Deborah Faye Carter presented her findings on minority retention at the February conference and is in the process of completing a paper based on those findings. Don Hossler and a team of graduate students have completed a literature search for a different purpose: to ascertain the extent of reliable studies on retention that contain results that, in his judgment, are useful to practitioners. Preliminary findings of the previous papers were presented at our conference in February, and the finished piece will be available later this summer.
Professor John Braxton of Vanderbilt University , author of Reworking the Departure Puzzle, is engaged in a study of reliability of program evaluations and research in Indiana . Pauline Reynolds and Jeff McKinney are collaborating with Dr. Braxton on this project. This will be the first study of its kind in the nation, crossing the usual divide between program-based evaluation and assessment on the one hand and formally published, refereed research on the other. The study is currently in progress and will be completed in the fall semester.
The Indiana Project on Retention recently submitted a five-year proposal ($519,360 per year) to the Lumina Foundation to continue and expand our work throughout the state of Indiana as the Indiana Project on Student Success under the leadership of Professor Ed St. John. The proposal will be reviewed August 6. In addition to the projects currently in progress (bibliography, research, annual conferences), the Indiana Project on Student Success will include research with partner institutions in Indiana . Specifically, twelve campuses will be selected by our team to be included. These campuses will represent a mix of different types of institutions: two-year, four-year, doctoral; large and small; regional and statewide; public and private. From each institution, one faculty member will be selected to work with the Indiana Project on Student Success to carry out the necessary research and program enhancements. This structure will enable us to perform research across a number of representative Indiana campuses, while still having access to best utilization of the cultures of the various campuses, through their own Faculty Fellows. All these research projects will be hands-on, applied work, designed to be coupled with immediate program enhancements, which will then be evaluated by the project team. The inquiry-based model will lead to action that we can be reasonably assured will enhance student success. Results from the work at the twelve sample campuses will be disseminated throughout the state, and consulting services will be offered to assist those who wish to start similar program enhancements.
Bibliography of Retention Research
The annotated bibliography has been compiled largely from articles in peer-reviewed journals, such as The Journal of Higher Education, Research in Higher Education, and The Journal of College Student Retention. It features over 150 studies and is organized according to subject area, e.g. "Community College", "First-Year Students", "Mentoring" and "Minority Students." It provides insight into the type of research being produced concerning the retention of our students and the efforts being made to further their success. The bibliography can be a valuable resource to busy practitioners, faculty and administrators, providing short, informative, abstracts of retention research that can be dipped into with little effort.