Recruitment and Retention of High-Achieving Students

Academic Affaris

Recognized as one of the top public universities in the Midwest, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UW-Eau Claire) offers an exceptional undergraduate liberal education program at a fraction of the cost of many of its peer institutions. Additionally, we are one of the few Wisconsin public universities to participate in the prestigious National Merit Scholarship program, which awards scholarships to merit scholars who indicate UW-Eau Claire as their first-choice institution.

To date, we have been designated as a competitive and selective school for prospective students. However, with increased competition for students in our main catchment area, we are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit high-achieving students. In order to sustain the institution's reputation, we must redouble our efforts to attract and retain to graduation more high-achieving students.

Historically, recruitment and retention efforts have included promoting and supporting the Blugold Fellows program, collaborative research and study abroad opportunities, departmental honors options, and the University Honors program. Each of these options enables a diverse group of academically-talented undergraduates to maximize their intellectual, personal, and professional development.

Currently, the University Honors program represents our most recognizable and compelling asset to recruit high-ability students and to differentiate us from our peers. As such, University Honors will continue to serve as the cornerstone of the institution's overall strategy to attract and retain high-achieving students, including students of color. As one of the most diverse programs on campus, University Honors has been recognized both nationally by the National Collegiate Honors Council and regionally through a University of Wisconsin Board of Regents Award for Program Diversity as a model for equity, diversity, and inclusivity and as a change agent for increasing both compositional and curricular diversity.

However, University Honors cannot be the only option for high-achieving students. We must develop, promote, and support an array of options to attract and retain academically-talented students, including developing engagement and retention programming for some of our less well-known and newer scholar initiatives such as Diversity Scholars, Centennial Experience, Blugold Promise, Mark of Excellence, and Local Blugold.

The University Honors program is the strongest asset we have to attract high-ability students and to differentiate ourselves from other campuses. A robust Honors program demonstrates to such students that high-level learning is a priority at this institution.

Heather Kretz

Build an institutional commitment to sustain and deliver a nationally recognized University Honors Program.

  • Direct each department, in collaboration with University Honors, to establish and commit to a 4-year schedule of honors colloquia and honors elective offerings, including electives in the Liberal Education Core.
  • Direct each department, in collaboration with University Honors, to establish a departmental honors option for students majoring in their programs.
  • Direct University Honors to utilize active classroom pedagogy to increase seat capacity in Honors colloquia and electives.
  • Provide funding through Academic Affairs to deliver a sufficient number of Honors colloquia.
  • Assess the costs and benefits of establishing an Honors College.

Establish a coordinated fellowship advising structure to at least double the number of students applying for and winning nationally competitive scholarships.

  • Direct University Honors to work with the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, Blugold Fellows, Center for International Education, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and academic departments to develop a coordinated recruitment and mentoring advising model to identify and groom students for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships such as the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, the National Science Foundation, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, and the Rhodes Scholarships.
  • Develop a communication plan to share information across campus about opportunities to identify, recruit, and mentor students in pursuit of nationally competitive scholarships.

Cultivate resources to make all scholarships for high-ability students renewable based on academic performance.

Develop specific programming and mentoring to support, engage, and retain all of our Centennial Experience, Blugold Promise, Diversity Scholars, and Mark of Excellence and Local Blugold scholarship recipients.

Revise and expand the communications plan for prospective high-achieving students and their parents.

  • Develop and update materials to effectively promote all programs for high-ability students, such as Blugold Fellows, McNair, International Fellows, collaborative research opportunities, University Honors, and major fellowship advising.
  • Develop messaging to help students and parents understand the nature and benefits of each program listed above.
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