Saundra Richardson was appointed director of UNC Pembroke’s Office of Advisement and Retention.
A Sanford, N.C., native with 25 years experience in a variety of higher education settings, Richardson was assistant director for Advising and Retention and coordinator of the Adult Learning Center.
The mission of the office is to promote student success through a variety of programs. Richardson works closely with faculty to provide high quality student advising, tutoring and the Freshman Seminar program, which is a required, eight-week orientation course to acclimate first-year students to college life.
Richardson reports to Jackie Clark, vice chancellor for the Office of Enrollment Management.
“Saundra is a perfect fit for the position of director of advising and retention,” Clark said. “Her extensive experience at various other universities added with her experience at UNC Pembroke as assistant director made the decision obvious.”
Clark said Richardson's passion for students, respect for academic excellence and strong leadership style will prove to serve the University well in our goal to improve student success. I’m honored to have her as a part of the Enrollment Management team. ”
One of Richardson’s most critical responsibilities is the safety net programs for freshmen. She believes the office and its programs should be visible on campus.
“We have to let students know we are here to help them and to let them know how we can help them,” she said. “We must make the connection early at freshman orientation and seminar.”
Richardson will also work to increase faculty involvement in freshmen programs and advising for all students.
“We will work to attract additional faculty into the ‘Early Alert’ program, which is the reporting system for freshmen at risk of failure two weeks into each semester,” Richardson said. “We believe that we should get an earlier start on the ‘Academic Difficulty Report,’ which comes out five weeks into a student’s first semester.”
Students identified in either report are offered advising and referred for additional services, such as the Writing Center, tutoring, Career Center, peer mentoring or other counseling.
“If everyone on this campus would focus on student success, retention would take care of itself,” Richardson said. “Everyone who come in contact with a student is part of the retention process.”
“We are going to focus on the entire freshman experience - housing, student activities and academics,” she said. “Are we going to be aggressive? Intrusive, I think is a better word.”
The reporting network continues after a student’s first semester. Over the holidays, Richardson reviews all freshman grades, sending out letters of either congratulations or offers of help. In some cases, phones calls are needed.
Part of the plan to step up retention efforts includes a plan to add new staff.
“We are in the process of hiring a first-year coordinator to focus entirely on freshmen,” she said. “They will work with the entire freshman experience.”
Richardson worked in student advising for Sandhills Community College before coming to UNCP. Before that, she was director of academic advising and associate registrar at the University of Evansville (Ind.). She has also worked in admissions and with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.
A graduate of Grambling State University, Richardson received a Master of Science degree in counseling from the University of Evansville.