University College supports student success

Old Main

Freshman year is guaranteed to be full of excitement, yet challenging for most college students.

Academic challenges. Being your own boss. Time management. Financial challenges. The list goes on.

To ease the transition from high school to college, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke has launched a University College.

A growing number of universities have introduced this initiative on campuses nationwide to support networks necessary for making sophomores out of first-year students.

The University College at UNCP will serve as the portal for all first-year and most transfer students to enter the university and begin exploring the curriculum and myriad of career paths being offered. The ultimate goal of the new concept is to improve retention rates which are on the rise.

The college is a comprehensive framework that integrates curricular, co-curricular, and advising programming in order to enhance their first-year experience, develop skills and habits that result in student success, and prepare them for sustained, advanced coursework in their major programs.

“The University College will serve as an academic umbrella providing support for all stakeholders from faculty to staff as they provide the support needed to enhance the academic lives of our students,” said Beth Holder, the new associate vice chancellor and dean of University College.

First-year students will be placed into meta-majors based on their chosen major, taught by University College-designated faculty. Meta-majors are collections of academic majors that have related courses and fit within a career field.  

Holder said the meta-major program will provide students with a clear pathway to graduation. The University College will work closely with several organizations, including the Center for Student Success, Accessibility Resource Center, University Writing Center, and Teaching and Learning Center.

These offices will work closely with the schools and colleges, academic departments, and other support units throughout the campus to help students persist in their first year as they move toward choosing a major.

Scott Hicks, English professor and director of the Teaching and Learning Center, said he envisions the University College as a transformational experience for students.

“I’m excited because my faculty colleagues are excited, already imagining the many ways that faculty who teach in the University College can transform their classes and build in new resources and supports for their students.

Hicks said he believes UNCP’s retention rate will be impacted by this new concept in that faculty can challenge students in ways that help them learn college-level ideas and concepts through partnership with other faculty, other staff and other students.

“Students will have a more direct relationship with faculty and advisers who can help them resolve the challenges that come with going from high school to college,” Hicks said.

Over the past academic year, UNCP saw spikes in continuing students indicated by a more than 5 percent increase in retention rate – the percentage of first-time, full-time freshmen returning for their second year.

“The Teaching and Learning Center is excited to bring campus partners to the table, helping to link University College-allied classes with the resources the University can provide. We’re ready to help faculty and students teach and learn together.”

Holder comes to UNCP as an experienced academic administrator with a significant record of accomplishment in the area of student success and retention.

She previously served as associate dean for Student Success at High Point University where she helped increase first-year retention rates. She holds a Ph.D. from UNC Greensboro in Curriculum and Instruction.

Student success begins with relationship building, according to Holder.

“Our academic success coaches within the Center for Student Success play a vital role along with our academic advisors, mentors, tutors and various other liaisons to the university’s support services.

“We want our students to build a strong relationship with our academic support staff on campus.

“I am excited about the meta-majors program,” she said. “I want to implement transition surveys so students can let us know what is going well or where they may be struggling. I also plan to enhance a strong peer-to-peer program in which upperclassmen will serve as mentors to first-year students. We must also assure we are providing all the necessary support for our faculty who teach our first-year students.

“I have a passion for college students, but I have an even bigger passion for student success. I am really excited about the University College and the support it can provide to students in regard to their persistence in graduating from UNC Pembroke.”