Trinity places great emphasis on supporting academic student success. The transition from high school to college is not always seamless. Mary Stuart Hunter, a national expert on first-year experience and student transitions, noted that "The first college year is not grade 13. For new students, college presents a foreign set of norms, traditions, and rituals, and a new language and environment."
Trinity University will soon launch "Starting Strong," a new program designed to improve first-year student success through multiple strategies that address advising, teaching, and academic support resources. "Starting Strong" aims to improve the University's faculty-based first-year advising by refining and expanding the training offered to new and experienced first-year advisers. A new professional staff position, the advising coordinator, will spearhead adviser training and implement best practices throughout the first-year advising process.
"Starting Strong" will bring best practices into introductory-level teaching. In lower level courses, instructors will incorporate early-alert strategies to identify first-year students who will benefit from timely intervention. "Starting Strong" will also bolster academic support resources offered to first-year students, particularly in STEM fields (where difficulties are often encountered by first-year students). A second, new professional staff position, the quantitative reasoning and skills director, will oversee STEM academic support systems, including supplementary instruction and in-person tutoring.
"Starting Strong" will have a significant impact by providing new, intentional approaches to all aspects of Trinity students’ first year on campus. Institutional data and assessments identified concerns regarding satisfaction with first-year academic advising at Trinity in both the 2013 and 2015 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). In addition, Trinity's data indicates that first-year Trinity students from 2009 to 2014 were struggling in their first fall term at greater rates than in the past.
Trinity University believes in "Starting Strong" because we know that a stronger first-year experience will yield the transformative education that all of our students deserve. Trinity currently has great momentum in reaching outstanding students who are best prepared to benefit from and contribute to our distinctive education. The University's first year retention rate (approximately 90 percent) fares better than the national (79 percent) and Texas (77 percent) averages, but we can improve. "Starting Strong" is an illustration of how we can leverage our academic strengths to create a more successful transition for our students from high school to college.
"Starting Strong" is Trinity's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), a required component of Trinity's reaffirmation of accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Trinity's QEP emerged as a faculty initiative. Under the leadership of political science professor John Hermann, there were multiple faculty committees involved in the selection and development of "Starting Strong," Many more will be involved in making it a success, including Michael Soto, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, who will serve as the lead administrator in implementing the plan. During a recent campus visit by our SACSCOC review team, Trinity's QEP was accepted without any recommendations for change. This is an outstanding accomplishment, and I congratulate all teams involved in the development of "Starting Strong."
Trinity on Tour is coming to Washington, D.C., Saturday, April 21, 2018. I hope you will make plans to join us for an interesting slate of speakers and classes without quizzes. You can check out the schedule of events, speakers, and topics here, as well as register. Trinity on Tour is designed to nourish the desire for lifelong learning and deepen connections with the University and each other.
As Trinity's chief storyteller, I love to share news about the University. But I also love hearing from you. Please feel free to contact me at TUPresident [at] trinity.edu.