Three words summarize the Wittenberg University of today: "On the move." The nationally recognized liberal arts college in Springfield, Ohio, may be small in size, but the institution has big ambitions. That’s why, in 2022, the university chose to partner with Credo to develop its new strategic plan and participate in Moving the Needle (MTN) concurrently.

Building Connection and Consistency

Wittenberg has a faculty and staff deeply committed to the success of the university and its students. As MTN began, two systematic challenges hindered the university’s efforts to improve student success and retention:

  • First-year students received some advising, but it was inconsistent. For example: The registrar was tasked with building first-semester schedules for hundreds of students behind closed doors and without much context. If students received schedules they didn’t like, they didn’t know whom to contact for help aside from the registrar. That led to an overloaded registrar and a lot of frustrated students.
  • Processes governing clearance (the business of being a student) and intervention efforts were originally very uncoordinated. More than a dozen offices were sending emails to students regarding their bills and other financial issues, but those emails were getting lost in the other messages that a student received over the course of an academic year. There was a need to recreate the system with the student experience, rather than the needs of the individual offices campus, at the center.

Wittenberg University Hollenbeck Hall

Tactical and Strategic Planning for Student Success

Rather than implementing a slew of new initiatives from their strategic plan at once, Wittenberg focused on a simple goal: to grow total enrollment, valuing retention as much as recruitment. To achieve this, Wittenberg created a tactical and strategic plan that is currently being implemented. The plan is deeply connected with the student success work of MTN and centers on the themes of Belong and Thrive, Engage and Excel, and Compete and Win.

Initiatives that originated in MTN include:

  • Changing the academic advising process so students have a constant guide from the moment they deposit through their first year. The university began introducing students to their student success advisor earlier, facilitating interventions to keep students on track. Changes also included housing the advising system within the university’s COMPASS: Sweet Student Success Center and reallocating and hiring new first-year advisors.
  • Implementing the Success Intelligence Platform powered by Pharos Resources to aid in clearance and intervention and expanding the clearance team to include the dean of students, COMPASS, residence life, and even athletics coaches (see below).

After completing the foundational work of MTN’s first year, Wittenberg is already seeing improvements in retention. Wittenberg entered MTN with a goal to increase its retention rate from an average in the low 70's  to the high 70's after five years. Just one year in, the university has already improved its retention rate over one percentage point and realized more than $100,000 in additional net tuition revenue.

Entering its second year of MTN, Wittenberg plans to focus on:

  • Helping more students find their academic home as quickly as possible by building on existing programming around high-impact practices, such as internships, community service, research, volunteerism, and study abroad.
  • Enhancing and expanding the university’s career development resources to benefit students and alumni.

Wittenberg’s MTN experience demonstrates the power of placing student success at the core of a university’s strategic plan. It also illustrates how addressing the foundational challenges of uncoordinated and inconsistent processes can yield quick success. Buoyed by these positive initial results, Wittenberg looks forward to building on this momentum in the next years of MTN.

Innovating the Next Level of Intervention

A team is often the most important tie student-athletes have to campus. Staff from Wittenberg’s COMPASS Center partnered with the football coaching staff to map a plan for coaches to serve as retention agents who could support the first-year student-athlete experience. This next-level intervention strategy focused on reaching the football players who were most at risk and supporting them both on and off the field. This comprehensive and robust plan included both one-on-one collaborations between coaches and players and connection points for community-building.

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