New network shows signs of success

two headshots: Suzeanne Benet and Brian Hatzel
Suzeanne Benet and Brian Hatzel said the SSN is showing early signs of success; the network matches first-year students with faculty members trained to help them navigate resources.
Image Credit: University Communications

The Student Success Network (SSN) officially launched in August as part of the Transitions program and is already showing signs of success.

The network matches a group of 20-80 first-year students with a faculty member who is trained to help them navigate student services and advising resources. Suzeanne Benet, assistant vice president for Academic Affairs, said the underlying idea of the network is student retention.

"It's to help students understand what is required of them to be successful in college, both in and out of the classroom," Benet said. "These students now have one specific person whom they have met and can ask questions through email, or in person over coffee, or during office hours."

Thirty-four faculty members have volunteered to be SSN partners, most have been involved in Transitions or summer advising/registration sessions with incoming students. Each faculty partner was randomly assigned a Transitions group. Faculty partners send periodic messages to students in their group, offering information about campus resources or strategies for classroom success.

Brian Hatzel, director of faculty initiatives for student success and professor of movement science, recruited faculty members for the network and now serves as SSN coordinator. He said faculty partners were trained to be able to highlight campus resources and answer questions outside their discipline.

"Faculty are really interested and want to be involved, there is a good amount of information sharing and we have great support from the President's Office and the Provost's Office," Hatzel said.

One recent SSN email to students included information about mySuccessCheck, a survey for all new students about adjusting to college. Hatzel said of the 1,142 students who participate in SSN, 61 percent had completed the survey, compared to the 40 percent completion rate of students not in SSN.

Samhita Rhodes, assistant director of the School of Engineering and chair of biomedical engineering, has 39 students in her SSN group. Rhodes has met with a handful of students on two occasions and has facilitated other introductions.

"One of my students sent me an email asking if I was her academic advisor, so I was able to put her in touch with her advisor and explain how my role is more supportive and to connect her to university resources," she said. "So, I've managed to create intentional interactions with some students."

Hatzel said the task force that developed SSN cited research that reports student-faculty interactions as positively influencing educational outcomes.

"The literature tells us that students will say some of their most impactful moments in college are those spent with a faculty member," he said.

SSN will continue in the winter semester and then be assessed according to student outcomes, Benet said. Faculty members who are interested in becoming a mentor can contact Benet or Hatzel.