Priority #1 at UH Hilo: Supporting students to thrive and succeed.
By Marcia Sakai
A major goal of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is to provide support to students to thrive, compete, innovate and lead in their professional and personal lives. This means we have a responsibility to develop best practices that enable students to pursue their own goals with purpose and confidence to see them through to graduation and then beyond to further education or a meaningful career.
One initiative to achieve this goal is a program that UH Hilo is implementing, along with several other UH campuses, to develop a new model of best-practice student advising tools. UH was selected by Complete College America as one of four state teams to participate in a 24-month initiative called Purpose First, where students are encouraged to explore career aspirations early in their college/university years.
This is the trend to success: make a career choice early. Gone are the days of recommending to students that they take general courses for the first two years and not worry about their major until later. Here’s why: An early career choice is then integrated into the student’s academic advising, with decisions made along the way based on real-time, region-specific labor market data currently available and reviewed by the students themselves.
The UH Purpose First initiative, funded by a $1 million grant from Strada Education Network, enables students to pursue their college goals more purposefully and with confidence that their majors match their academic and personal strengths. They are also given a clearer understanding of future career opportunities.
Examples of activity underway at UH Hilo toward Purpose First include annual career fairs for the entire campus designed to connect students with employers from across the state, development of a shared plan for Career Advising between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, and the inclusion of career topics in all classes.
In tandem, we’re transforming many traditional courses of study into interdisciplinary undergraduate curriculum that is more responsive to preparing graduates for further education or employment and leadership in the 21st century.
Evaluation of the effectiveness of these efforts will be implemented in fall 2019.
Enrollment Management Plan
The Purpose First program is part of our updated Enrollment Management Plan geared to preparing competent and transformational leaders of tomorrow through a data-driven enrollment management process from recruitment, to persistence, to graduation and beyond.
The plan calls for UH Hilo to increase its enrollment through strategic recruitment, well-rounded student support, and focused retention efforts. We’ve increased communication and access to financial aid information, adjusted awarding of institutional aid to support retention, expanded and enhanced digital outreach (email, web, and social media), increased UH community college transfer events and recruitment, and implemented texting communications for accepted students.
To coordinate and oversee many new and existing undergraduate retention strategies, we’ve launched the ʻOpihi Student Success program with new hires to do proactive inreach to current students focused on registration and student support, and outreach to potential returning students who stopped out of UH Hilo but were within 15 credits of graduation.
We’ve also increased participation in the peer mentoring program for new freshmen and transfer students. Mass communication has expanded to remind students about important deadlines, processes, and events.
Further, in collaboration with the College of Business and Economics and the College of Arts and Sciences, ʻOpihi conducted individual reviews of progress to degrees for all 2,529 students at sophomore, junior or senior standing, including exchange students. And in addition to the students who stopped out, outreach is underway to students who experienced registration errors, and others who were deemed prospective returning students.
The goal of our new Enrollment Management Plan is to make UH Hilo a viable and successful choice for students from Hawai‘i, the continental U.S., and abroad who are interested in making an impact in a rapidly changing and diverse society. For details about the activities I’ve discussed in this column and more, see the Hilo section of UH System Enrollment Management Report released last month.