May 16, 2017

Student Support Task Force Recommendations

In February 2016, the Board of Trustees approved a new strategic direction—Affordability through Distinction and Growth – which includes growing the student body by about 400 students over eight years. As part of this exciting new direction, the College wants to ensure that all of its students have access to the support they need to successfully navigate their time at Lafayette and beyond.

In April 2016, President Byerly created the Student Support Task Force with this in mind. The Task Force (see membership list at the end of this summary) sought input from students, faculty, and staff as it studied Lafayette’s programs geared to help specific segments of the student body, such as students from underrepresented groups and international and first-generation students. Task Force members examined how the College might extend pre-matriculation programs to more students and connect more deliberately with orientation programming. Task Force members also sought ways to strengthen the system of academic advising and enhance the Connected Communities program.

Having solicited input broadly, including through workshops, focus groups, and meetings with stakeholders, the Task Force sent to President Byerly a number of recommendations for improving how Lafayette extends support to all portions of its student body. This is a summary of some key recommendations that we will continue to explore.

The Task Force recommends that Lafayette:

Provide a more formally structured network of advisers and mentors

  • Provide to each student when he or she enrolls the names of members of a team consisting of a faculty adviser, class dean, Gateway counselor, PARDner (or student/peer adviser), and others, such as coaches and multi-language support specialists for international students.
  • More explicitly link advising to the First-Year Seminar, and possibly link Commons housing assignments based on First-Year Seminar groupings.
  • Identify a cohort of faculty and staff who will receive specialized training to serve as mentors, with the College providing funding to allow mentors to meet informally with their students over coffee. The mentoring program, ideally overseen by a staff member, would provide specialized mentoring for specific populations (e.g. first generation, LGBTQ students), and would allow for regular student feedback, and appropriate compensation for mentors.

Develop more comprehensive transition programs

  • Expand the College’s six-week Summer Program to Advance Leadership in STEM program, which serves students from groups typically underrepresented in STEM fields (women, domestic minorities, etc.), and consider similar transition programs for other student populations.
  • Establish a pre-orientation program for first-generation students and others from underrepresented populations; these groups could continue to meet throughout the first year.
  • Expand programming in Connected Communities to include a course designed to support transition that addresses the needs of first-year students while introducing them to resources, services, and growth opportunities.

Address needs of specific student populations

  • Enhance internship opportunities for international students and the Friendship Partner program, and continue expanding support for English language learners.
  • Appoint a group of students, faculty, and staff to conduct an evaluation of campus infrastructure to enable improvements in accessibility, both in facilities and design of instructional materials.
  • Continue developing gender-inclusive housing options for all class years and making restrooms gender-neutral. Explore options within Banner to allow for options beyond a male/female binary choice in gender identity selection.
  • Ensure that student government funding is available to groups serving underrepresented or marginalized students.
  • Expand the number of social, meeting, and mentoring spaces on campus, including a new multicultural center to complement existing facilities such as the Portlock Center
  • Remain attentive to health care costs, housing and meal costs during breaks, and ensure that textbooks and other course materials are available through the library or other means.
  • Develop online modules for parents who cannot come to campus for first-year orientation due to geographic, financial or other considerations.
  • Create a new position, coordinator for student employment, and provide more opportunities for campus employment, including work study.

Improve internal campus communications/support structure across campus

  • Improve communication to students regarding support services offered across various divisions. Information should be made available through print materials, posters, websites, and social media.

 

Members of the Student Support Task Force:

  • Ashley Bianchi, Director of Financial Aid
  • Janine Block, International Student Advisor
  • Nanette Cooley, Director of Career Services
  • Erica D’Agostino, Dean of Advising and Co-Curricular Programs
  • Danialie Fertile, Intercultural Development Fellow
  • Alex Hendrickson, College Chaplain, Director of Religious & Spiritual Life and Interim Dean of Equity & Inclusion
  • Kaity McKittrick, Deputy Director of Athletics
  • Chawne Kimber, Professor of Mathematics and Director of The Center for the Integration of Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship
  • Paul J. McLoughlin II, Dean of Students
  • Christian Tatu, Coordinator of the College Writing Program
  • Simon T. Tonev, Director of Institutional Research
  • Robin Rinehart, Dean of the Faculty and Chief Diversity Officer, Professor of Religious Studies; Chair

In addition, John McKnight, Dean of Intercultural Development, and Taaha Mohamedali, Senior Admissions Director, served on the Task Force before their departures from Lafayette.