Expanding Our Culture of Care: UHD’s New Gator Success Institute
By Marie Jacinto
UHD is well on its way toward accomplishing the first goal of its strategic plan, “Enhancing Student Success,” especially with the recent grant of $750,000 from ECMC Foundation to establish UHD’s new Gator Success Institute (GSI). The GSI will provide the student-centric infrastructure and expanded wraparound services necessary to address the academic, professional, financial, and basic needs of our students.
The University is positioned to set a national standard in student success through its proactive measures to have a positive impact on first-generation, low-income students. UHD boldly commits to doubling its six-year graduation rate to 60% by 2028, resulting in an additional 350 graduates each year.
“UHD’s ‘Gator Success Institute (GSI): Creating a Culture of Care Through a Holistic Approach to Student Success’ proposal especially appealed to ECMC Foundation,” stated Program Officer Jonathan T. Reid. “GSI aligns with our strategic priority of removing barriers to postsecondary completion for students who have been consistently and systematically left behind. This program is an exciting approach to evidence-based innovation and will help build the capacity of the University. We look forward to seeing how the Institute impacts UHD students’ ability to persist and graduate in a timely manner.”
The realization of the Institute is based in part on the recommendations of the National Institute for Student Success (NISS) to increase retention and graduation rates of UHD students following its extensive data analysis. The NISS has been working with UHD administration, faculty, and staff since May 2022 and has provided an evidenced-based assessment of the University’s current student success efforts and areas of opportunity to better serve its students.
GSI’s tactics to improve UHD’s first-time-in-college student success outcomes include:
- A caseload-management approach to student support in that every participating student will have their own GSI Student Success Advocate who will provide resources and wraparound services;
- The assignment of every student to a learning community (based on college affiliation) and near-peer mentors;
- Digital degree maps with clear academic and professional targets for students with pathways to complete their degrees on time and transition to the workforce smoothly;
- Systematization across departments, colleges, and programs of UHD’s Student Success Management, which monitors a students’ progress towards degree attainment;
- The development of bilingual family programming (monthly newsletters, in-person presentations, and online modules) for the parents/guardians of first-generation students to engage them in the educational journey;
- The “La Familia” program to match students with faculty and staff to build a stronger sense of belonging; and
- Emergency financial assistance for students facing food, housing, transportation, and health care insecurities.
“Through extensive research, we know that by taking a holistic approach in providing for our students’ basic needs, we will increase retention and graduations rates, ultimately leading to improving the socioeconomic mobility of our graduates and their families,” said President Loren J. Blanchard. “Furthermore, a culture of care is firmly ingrained in the DNA of UHD. The GSI will move the needle on the continuum of care provided by UHD, helping to ensure students can achieve their dreams of graduating from college with a degree of value that will forever change the trajectory of their lives and generations to follow.”