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Program Details

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The National Symposium on Student Retention will take place Monday, October 23 through Thursday, October 26 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Monday Welcome Reception

Please join us for hors d’oeuvres on Monday after the pre-conference workshops. Relax and get to know your colleagues or reconnect with the ones you met in a previous year. The welcome reception is open to everyone and is included with your conference registration. You are welcome to bring guests, please see the registration page for cost. Cash bar.

Concurrent Sessions

Tuesday through Thursday authors of peer-reviewed papers will present on issues important to higher education professionals. We’ll also have Facilitated Discussions, Coffee Talks, and Tutorials throughout the week. A few of the topics include:

  • Holistic withdrawal process
  • Data analytics and student success
  • Peer coaching
  • Academic advising
  • Low-income student outcomes


Join us at the end of Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions to relax and enjoy time with your colleagues before dinner. Drinks will be on your own. More details to come.

Poster Session

Join us during our poster session to visit with poster presenters about their research and strategies for helping their students succeed. The exhibit hall format offers a great opportunity for networking with your colleagues.

Keynote Speakers

Tuesday Keynote – Gavin Henning 

Gavin Henning is professor of higher education at New England College in New Hampshire, where he directs the Doctor of Education and Master of Science in Higher Education Administration Programs. He has over 25 years of experience in student affairs, assessment, and institutional research and regularly presents and consults on those topics. Gavin is a past president of both ACPA–College Student Educators International and the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). In addition, he has published numerous articles, book chapters, and books including The Impact of Sense of Belonging in College: Implications for Student Persistence, Retention and Success, which he co-edited and Reframing Assessment to Center Equity: Theories, Models, and Practices which he co-edited and co-authored three chapters. He is the recipient of the 2023 NASPA George D. Kuh Outstanding Contribution to Literature and/or Research. Gavin earned his PhD in Education Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of New Hampshire.

The Impact of Sense of Belon­­­­ging on College Student Success 

­College success is often viewed in terms of metrics such as graduation and retention. However, sense of belonging is becoming recognized as not only an outcome of attending college, but also as an avenue for advancing student learning, development, and success, which contrasts with traditional ways of viewing student success. This session provides an overview of sense of belonging including underlying theories, outcomes, and antecedents and concludes with strategies for foster belonging on individual campuses.

Wednesday Keynote – Jonathan Gagliardi 

Jonathan Gagliardi currently serves as the inaugural Vice President for Economic Mobility and Social Impact at Northern Arizona University (NAU) where he is responsible for the design and creation of new education ventures, and as the President and Chair of the Board of Directors for the Association for Institutional Research. Previously, as Assistant Vice Chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY), Jonathan led the development and implementation of CUNY's new strategic plan, CUNY Lifting New York. Prior to this, Jonathan served as the Assistant Vice President of Strategy, Policy, and Analytics, and Chief of Staff at Herbert H. Lehman College, where he oversaw the organization of the college's data assets and amplification of a culture of evidence on matters related to enrollment management, student success, finance, research and innovation, and accreditation. Dr. Gagliardi most recently authored, “How Colleges Use Data (JHU),” which focuses on large-scale organizational transformation at the intersection of data analytics and senior college leadership, in addition to “Higher Education Systems Redesigned: Shifting From Perpetuation to Innovation to Student Success (SUNY),” and, “The Analytics Revolution in Higher Education: Big Data, Organizational Learning, and Student Success (Stylus).” Jonathan also proudly serves on the Board of Directors of Quality Matters.

Pre-Conference Workshops  

Monday, October 24 – Optional, with an additional fee

Family Engagement’s Impact on Retention and Student Success

No one has more influence on a student than their family. By thoughtfully engaging parents and families, institutions can help develop them into advisors that can not only provide information and support, but also keep them on track to graduation. In fact, when family members receive updates on their student's progress, those students have retention rates 8% higher. University of North Georgia has scaled their family engagement strategy to direct guidance and improve retention of their nearly 19,000 students. Despite reduced staff and budget constraints, they have been able to leverage technology to provide personalized content, timely notifications and reminders, and proactive communications. Learn how UNG has partnered across campus and with tech solutions to turn parents into partners for student success.

Learning Objectives:

Attendees to this session will be introduced to the ways in which families influence student success, retention, data, and research that supports the positive impact family engagement can make.  Attendees will also see examples of content UNG is using the build their strategy. 

Presenter(s) & Institution:

Melissa Greiner, CampusESP

A journalist turned marketing professional and still focused on "finding the story", Melissa has spent the past seven years helping nonprofits and higher education institutions connect more meaningfully with their audiences by harnessing technology. As the Vice President of Marketing at CampusESP, Melissa connects directly with their 315+ customer schools to understand their enrollment and retention challenges, highlight how family engagement has helped improve outcomes, and share how tech can help small teams scale strategically.

Meredith Higgins, University of North Georgia

Meredith Higgins serves as Associate Director in the Office for Student Retention & Success at the University of North Georgia. She earned her M.A. in International Affairs and a Graduate Certificate in Diversity, both from UNG. She collaborates with departments across the university to foster students’ persistence and retention through best practice research, communication efforts, and equitable student success initiatives. Meredith’s research interests include holistic student development, psychologically attuned communication practices, and diversity issues in education.

Impact: Increasing Student Success and Retention with Large-Scale Intervention

For over a decade, the Center for Academic Success (CAS) at LSU has successfully implemented a low-cost, time efficient intervention for academically at-risk first-year students called 'Impact Your GPA,' or 'Impact.' First-year freshmen earning less than a 2.0 GPA are required to attend. Required students completing this program consistently show significant increases in GPA and retention compared to their counterparts who do not participate in 'Impact.' The current program includes two parts, requiring only two hours of the student's time. Students participate in a one-hour workshop the week before the Spring semester and must also complete an approved one-hour academic support activity through the CAS prior to midterms. This model allows the student to learn foundational metacognitive strategies for learning and organization while receiving additional support in an area specific to the student's needs in the student's preferred mode of delivery. This pre-conference workshop is designed to help participants understand how a low-cost, large-scale intervention with a minimal time commitment from students can have a long-term effect on individual student success and retention. Activities in the workshop will focus on key performance metrics for programs like 'Impact,' delivering evidence-based metacognitive strategies for students, and how to implement similar interventions elsewhere.

Learning Objectives

  1. identify key performance metrics for evaluating large-scale intervention programs.
  2. understand specific metacognitive strategies proven to help improve college student performance.
  3. Learn strategies for personalized academic support options in large-scale interventions with low staff capacity.
Presenters & Institution
Elizabeth M. Wallace, Ph.D., Louisiana State University – Elizabeth M. Wallace, Ph.D. is Assistant Director for Interventions and Achievement at CAS. Wallace oversees data collection and analysis at CAS, heads math and STEM interventions, and plans targeted academic interventions for first-year LSU students.  

Melissa Brocato, Louisiana State University – Melissa Brocato, AVP and Executive Director of CAS, dedicated her 30-year career to helping students learn effectively and think critically. Outside developing an award-winning learning center at LSU, her contributions to the field of metacognition in higher education include national and international presentations and publications. 

Reframing Risk With Individualized Student Interventions to Increase Student Success

In 2015 we began an experiment to increase retention for a group of students identified as “middle-ability.” This experiment resulted in a 14% retention gain for that population by Fall 2019 and in the creation and adoption of a risk analytics survey (Marshall University Student Success Forecasting Model [SSFM]). After many conversations, we were able to modify the SSFM risk analytics survey and develop a strategic approach to intervention, creating programs that allow us to analyze risk and begin offering students interventions before students arrive on campus for Orientation. These interventions span everything from course placement to informing difficult conversations with advisors. Join us for a half-day workshop as we walk through the discussions and resulting interventions customizing the student retention experience at Marshall. We will focus on a variety of initiatives that utilize the SSFM, including our required first-year seminar course and our differentiated care advising plans. Participants will learn about these initiatives, the steps and conversations regarding their rollout, and how the focus on experimental design of the SSFM has led to actionable, scalable, measurable, and real-time results. The discussion will also encompass next steps as we broaden and prune our retention initiatives.

Learning Objectives: This workshop will focus on our methodologies (cognitive, noncognitive, and behavioral) for assessment and evaluation of incoming students to identify students for appropriate success (retention and progression) initiatives while also personalizing the student/advisor relationship and student experience. In addition, we will focus on a variety of initiatives that utilize the SSFM including orientation (pre-matriculation), first-year seminar, differentiated care advising strategies, and a campus-wide shift to appreciative advising strategies. Participants will learn about data-based initiatives and how the crucial, initial focus on experimental design of the SSFM has led to actionable, scalable, measurable, and real-time results. Participants will be introduced to each of these initiatives, their developmental processes, and their implementation strategies. We will also explore how the SSFM and interventions are assessed and modified to meet University and student needs, including financial viability. Participants will work through our early alert strategies and plan how this could be implemented on their campus. Finally, participants will be introduced to a new and encouraging attendance collection initiative, and they will review with facilitators in real time how that data will inform our next steps with this initiative.

Presenter(s) & Institution: Marshall University

Christopher Atkins, M.A., is currently the Director for University College at Marshall University. Atkins has experience conducting professional development trainings for both professional and faculty advisors on various technological platforms and across many advising initiatives. Atkins’ work with student success has been presented at conferences such as Educause and the National Academic Advisor Association (NACADA).

April Fugett, Ph.D., is the Coordinator for Student Success Data Analytics, the Interim Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), and a Professor of Psychology at Marshall University. She has experience in both faculty development and presenting research and analyses to various faculty, staff, and administrative stakeholders. In addition to her work in AA and CTL, she has taught advanced research methodology and advanced statistics; and she has several publications and over 80 research and teaching presentations spanning a wide variety of topics, including advanced statistical analyses and student retention and completion initiatives.

Britani Black, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of WV, and an assistant professor for the Marshall University School of Medicine. She has worked as a therapist for the past four years with a focus on young adults, interpersonal relationships, substance abuse, and general practice. In addition to this, she has taught honors courses, psychology courses, medical students, and first year students for nearly seven years. She has also conducted and presented research on popular culture, social justice issues, and psychological factors for the past ten years, with many of these presentations being at the international level. 

Student Retention Through the Lens of a Dual Report Academic Advising Model

Our discussion will be an honest conversation about the bumps, the bruises, the victories and the hope-filled possibilities of a partnership, not yet fully fulfilled. This contextual status report will focus on the important components of a successful partnership and how culture change and vision can be a driving factor in revolutionizing the profession of academic advising in a world where advisors as holistic educators is required. Our goal is that participants leave with an understanding of the benefits of a dual report academic advising partnership, but also the critical nature of how breaking down the silos, while retaining college-level individuality are keys to transforming academic advising in 2023 and beyond.

By the close of our session, participants will:

  1. Be equipped with practical knowledge of "dual report advising model" and the benefits for faculty, professional advisors and students on their campus
  2. Understand how such a model is critical as institutions grapple with a changed student population, resulting from the traumatic impacts of on-going pandemics on student learning and wellness.
  3. See the value of a formalized and creative partnership between the academy and centralized academic advising and/or student success
  4. Appreciate the steps required to not just survive the partnership, but thrive within it
  5. Be empowered to take on and establish a similar coalitions on their campus, where centralized support for decentralized services becomes the “new normal”

Presenter & Institution:

Adam Smith, M.Ed. University of Kentucky

Adam A. Smith is a first-generation college graduate who has dedicated his almost three-decade career to ensuring college access and success for all Americans. He served as the founding Director of the TRIO Upward Bound program at Rock Valley College and later as the college’s Dean of Students. He taught both undergraduate and graduate level courses at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, and was appointed to serve as the City of Rockford’s (IL) “Education Czar” to former mayor Lawrence J. Morrissey. Adam worked at Metropolitan State University as Director of Multicultural, American Indian and Retention Services, The University of Alabama as Director of Undergraduate Academic Advising and Student Success and at The University of Akron as Assistant Vice President of Student Success. He also has undergraduate admissions experience from his time at The University of Tennessee. Smith currently works at the University of Kentucky as Executive Director for University Academic Advising and has a vibrant public speaking and educational consulting firm, Adam A. Smith & Associates. He hosts the podcast “Get Uncomfortable with Adam Smith and has built successful coalitions and initiatives that have transformed high school graduation rates, college enrollment and success for students throughout the nation.