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New Thriving Tigers initiative will increase undergraduate student support

Oct 24, 2018

In August, Pacific's Board of Regents approved the Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) proposal Thriving Tigers, which supports undergraduate student success efforts in alignment with the university's refreshed strategic plan, Pacific 2020R.

This initiative was developed through an in-depth analysis of best practices at institutions that are successful in addressing student retention and graduation rates; discussions with faculty, student life staff, the Office of Institutional Research, students and other support staff; and the work of strategic initiative teams of faculty and staff charged with identifying gaps in Pacific's orientation, first-year experience and academic/career advising.  

Thriving Tigers is an investment in an integrated student support strategy. It builds on previous SIF investments in Student Success and the Career Resource Center by providing additional forms of support for Pacific undergraduates in key areas to help increase undergraduate student success, satisfaction, persistence and graduation:  

Expanded mental health support
New online resources will expand mental health support for students and professional development for faculty and staff. Tao is an online cognitive therapy tool administered by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff to augment face-to-face sessions. Kognito is an online tool to expand mental health-related professional development and training resources for students, faculty and staff.  And, in response to student requests, Active Minds, a national organization considered the voice of young adult mental health advocacy nationwide, will now have an organization chapter at Pacific to help de-stigmatize mental illness. Implementation of these resources is currently underway.  

New academic advising center for undergraduate students
The new academic advising center will provide drop-in and by-appointment advising support, academic coaching and referrals for undergraduate students on the Stockton campus. Evening and weekend hours will make this help accessible even to those students with the most impacted schedules. All undergraduates will have access to pre- and post-registration advising help, degree progress checks, and tutorials on how to use our online tools for registration, scheduling, etc.   

The new professional academic advisers who staff the center will supplement, rather than supplant, our faculty advisers who will continue to be the core of our undergraduate advising model. The center will provide faculty with a central resource to refer higher-need advisees, reserving assistant/associate deans' offices as the arbiters of the most difficult advising cases and academic challenges.    

The new staff positions approved as part of the Thriving Tigers initiative have been posted on PeopleAdmin and internal candidates are encouraged to apply. These positions include a Director, who will report to the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, two Professional Academic Advisers/Retention Specialists, a Professional Adviser for Transfer/Veteran/Military-Affiliated students, and a Pre-Health Adviser. The goal is to have the positions filled before the end of the fall semester.  

Proactive advising for students at high risk of academic attrition
The new professional academic advisers will also play an important role as "academic coaches" for our students whose academic profiles suggest a high risk of attrition. Each incoming undergraduate student who matches this profile will be assigned a professional adviser and will be expected to meet with the adviser regularly for academic coaching to keep them on track and engaged to persist and graduate.  

Faculty will remain the primary academic advisers for these students and professional academic advisers will be expected to communicate and collaborate with faculty advisers when working with an assigned student. 

New Faculty Fellow
The Board of Regents also approved a half-time Faculty Fellow position. Tenured faculty with experience in and commitment to academic advising and mentoring are encouraged to apply for this important new role. The faculty member selected for this role will be responsible for developing a system for achieving uniform, universal best practices for faculty academic advising. This will include professional development and evaluation for faculty advisers, a recognition process for excellence in advising and accountability for ineffective advisers. The Faculty Fellow will also be responsible for initiating a faculty conversation about how faculty advising should be recognized in promotion and tenure standards given its importance to student success and retention.  

Next steps
Thriving Tigers is the result of work of faculty, students and staff from the across the university, as well as the Pacific 2020R Academic & Career Advising, Orientation & First Year Experience, Safety Net and Pre-Matriculation teams. The Pre-Matriculation Team has completed its work and sent its recommendations to the Office of Enrollment Division for implementation; the other three teams, along with the Academic Support Team will continue their work in academic years 2019 and 2020.

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