Southern Arkansas University is receiving national recognition for its student orientation program, BAM: Becoming a Mulerider.
It started when a group of SAU student affairs staffers presented at a national symposium for the Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange in September 2008 in Little Rock. To be considered, the group had to present a paper.
“Our symposium is unique in that the papers have to go through a two-stage peer review process,” said Dr. Rosemary Hayes, executive director for the CSRDE in Oklahoma City. “Then, all of the accepted presentations are evaluated by the audience, and we use the highest scoring presentations for later webinars.”
The BAM presenters received high evaluations from their Little Rock presentation, so the group was invited to present a webinar, which was open to the CSRDE’s more than 700 college and university member institutions.
“It was a great honor for our paper and presentation given at the national conference of Consortium for Student Retention and Data Exchange to be selected based on exceptionally high evaluations to be offered as a nationwide webinar, one of only eight produced each year.” said Dr. Donna Allen, vice president for student affairs. “To my knowledge, this is the first nationwide webinar for SAU to present. I am very proud of their scholarly work on this project.”
Sarah Jennings, dean of enrollment services at SAU, thought the webinar went very well. “Student Affairs regularly listens to webinars from across the nation. It was exciting to present one from SAU and to share our BAM program,” she said. “Dr. Hayes has since asked us to provide the program as a full-length workshop at the next CSRED National Symposium in Mobile, Ala.”
BAM began with a group of student affairs staff in 2007 realizing the need to expose incoming students to all of the campus-wide services available to them in a one-day visit. During this visit, the incoming students can also take care of the business they need to complete before their first day of class, such as finalizing their financial aid and organizing a class schedule. Not everyone was completely on board.
“I was apprehensive at first because I didn’t want to give up individual attention, but we came up with a creative way to provide them with an overall comprehensive day to cover all of our services as well as giving them one-on-one advising appointments,” said Shelly Whaley, assistant dean of enrollment for advising, recruitment, and transfers. “The BAM program has been extremely successful, and evaluations from students and parents have all been in the 95 percentile or higher.”
Dr. Hayes understands why the BAM program is so successful. “One of the things that is very valuable about the work being done at SAU with the BAM program is the fact that it involves all key elements at the university in retention efforts. Historically, efforts to help students become integrated in academic life and succeed in college have resided with one department, like student orientation. In terms of best practices, we know the programs that are most successful are the ones that pull in people from across the campus, such as students, faculty, staff, administrators, as well as the parents. People typically think of the involvement of parents as being ‘helicopter parents,’ but the thing that is important about BAM parents specifically is they get involved in the process and move from helicopter to ‘partner parents’ to help their child stay in school.”
The Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange at the University of Oklahoma is a consortium of two-year and four-year institutions dedicated to achieving the highest levels of student success through collaboratively sharing data, knowledge and innovation. Founded in 1994, the CSRDE is probably best known for its annual retention studies which provide executives at two-year and four-year institutions with access to timely, comprehensive, comparative benchmarking data on retention and graduation, not available from any other source.
The Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange at the University of Oklahoma is a consortium of two-year and four-year institutions dedicated to achieving the highest levels of student success through collaboratively sharing data, knowledge and innovation.