||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
Smelstor Hosts First
Roundtable Discussion |
MAILED: February 11, 1998|
EAU CLAIRE -- Financial aid, the Greek system, retention rates and academic difficulties were among the topics discussed Monday during Dr. Marjorie Smelstor's first Roundtable discussion as interim chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
The nine students who attended the session -- meant to be an informal time for students to tell the university's top administrator what's on their minds - told Smelstor the existing financial aid process was confusing and frustrating.
The students suggested that the university find more efficient ways to provide students and their parents with information about financial aid materials and to provide more convenient ways to answer their questions about the process.
Smelstor and Financial Aid Director Kathleen Sahlhoff noted that while federal regulations prohibit them from simplifying the process, the university can do a better job of providing students and their parents with information about how to work through the process quickly and efficiently.
Organizing informational sessions in the residence halls and Davies Center, updating the department's homepage on the World Wide Web to make it more interactive, and targeting parents through special mailings were among the possibilities discussed.
Smelstor told the students and nine staff members present that UW-Eau Claire is continuing its efforts to better its recruitment and retention rates - particularly involving top students who come to university.
"Several years ago we noticed a pattern of more students leaving than we'd like to see," Smelstor said. "It was not a crisis but we were losing more students than we thought we should. We were at the national average but we thought we could and should do better."
Informal measures indicate that the university now seems to be doing a better job of attracting and retaining those top students, Smelstor said, crediting the Recruitment and Retention Committee and initiatives such as "Take A Wing Under Your Wing" for those successes. For example, she said, faculty have reported that more students are seeking them out to ask about research opportunities and grade point averages of students living in the residence halls are increasing.
"It's a certain quality student who is seeking out those opportunities," Smelstor said of research opportunities, adding that while the university's primary focus is on attracting and retaining students at the top of their high school graduating classes, it is not so numbers driven that other students are ignored.
Student Body President Kevin Gatzlaff said he was concerned about help for those students who study hard but still fail academically at UW-Eau Claire.
The university has explored and will continue to experiment with ways to get students - particularly freshmen and sophomores - help when they start failing rather than waiting until they've already failed, Smelstor said.
Hopefully, she said, the proposed freshman experience slated to begin next fall will help students better make the transition from high school classrooms to college classrooms. The experience would put every incoming freshman in a class specially designed to meet their needs as a freshman, Smelstor said.
Roundtable participants also discussed the merits of requiring students who are on academic probation or suspension to be required to visit with an adviser. And Gatzlaff suggested that peer counselors be used in some way since some students may respond better to another student.
Smelstor and her staff agreed to explore such possibilities, reporting back to the students at a future Roundtable.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: today's date