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Tentative Schedule

Monday, November 4, 2024
9:00 am – 6:00 pm
On-site Registration
1:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Pre-conference Workshops (additional fees required)
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Welcome Reception

Tuesday, November 5, 2024
7:00 am – 4:30 pm

On-site Registration
7:00 am – 8:30 am
Morning Refreshments
8:30 am – 10:00 am
Plenary Session
10:15 am – 12:30 pm
 Concurrent Sessions 
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Lunch on your own
2:00 pm – 4:15 pm
Concurrent Sessions
4:15 pm – 5:00 pm

Exhibitor Visits
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Wednesday, November 6, 2024
7:00 am – 4:30 pm
On-site Registration
7:00 am – 8:30 am
Morning Refreshments
8:30 am – 10:00 am
Plenary Session
10:15 am – 12:30 pm
Concurrent Sessions
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Lunch on your own
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Concurrent Session
3:15 pm – 4:30 pm
Poster Session
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Thursday, November 7, 2024
8:00 am – 9:00 am
Best Practices Awards Breakfast
9:00 am – 11:30 am
On-site Registration
9:15 am – 11:30 am
Concurrent Sessions
11:30 am 
Conference Adjourns

Program Details

The National Symposium on Student Retention will take place Monday, November 4 through Thursday, November 7 in Destin, Florida.

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

To be announced shortly

Pre-Conference Workshops  

Monday, November 4 – Optional, with an additional fee

A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships: Building Campus-Wide Retention Strategies with an Eye Toward Equity

Learn how these presenters achieved record-setting retention rates across diverse educational institutions despite challenging State and National political climates that could have an adverse impact on belonging and subsequent retention. Discover data-driven strategies that prioritize traditionally overlooked student populations, particularly students of color and first-generation students, leading to historic retention levels institutions from flagship to community college. This session offers insights into practical practices, processes, and policy shifts that boosted campus-wide retention, credit hours earned, progression, and graduation rates for all students. Dive into a ‘Shark Tank’ style challenge to design inclusive retention initiatives, aimed at fostering equitable success meeting campus wide retention and graduation goals . Join us in crafting strategies that truly understand and embrace the cultural needs of every student and have campus-wide impact.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understanding the importance of prioritizing traditionally overlooked student populations, such as students of color and first-generation students, in retention initiatives.
  2. Learning data-driven strategies for boosting retention rates across diverse educational institutions, even in challenging political climates.
  3. Exploring practical practices, processes, and policy shifts that can be implemented to improve campus-wide retention, credit hours earned, progression, and graduation rates.
  4. Gaining insights into inclusive retention initiatives and their role in fostering equitable success for all students.
  5. Developing strategies that embrace and cater to the cultural needs of every student, leading to campus-wide impact in retention and graduation goals.

Presenter(s) & Institution:

Adam A. Smith, Smith Education Associates, LLC

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. Adam currently works at the University of Kentucky as Executive Director for University Academic Advising, where he leads an innovative dual report academic advising model and has a vibrant public speaking portfolio through “SpeakOut”, the nation’s only non-profit social justice speaker’s agency, and hosts The Get Uncomfortable Podcast. Smith has led coalitions and innovations that have had a dramatic impact on student success at the University of Kentucky, Metropolitan State University, the University of Alabama, the University of Akron, Rock Valley College and in the City of Rockford, Illinois.

Howard Hue Johnson, University of Kentucky

Howard H. Johnson is a doctoral student researching the retention of African American and Hispanic male students at a PWI. He is an intersectional individual of color, an immigrant, first generation college graduate, and member of the LGBTQIA+ community who has been committed and dedicated to the work of supporting students and their academic success for a decade and half. He currently works at the University of Kentucky as the Assistant Director of Advising in the Gatton College of Business and Economics. Howard H. Johnson's education and research as well as his academic experiences and achievements have helped him create innovative ways to serve students with intentional programming targeting both student retention and success. He has created and led programs and initiatives focused on the retention and graduation of male students of color at the University of Kentucky to counter downward trends for the enrollment of male students in general and male students of color in particular.

Assessment: A Fictive Variation

Assessment is often an afterthought for teachers as they navigate their curricula. Students may view assessment as a discrete, peripheral activity disrupting the flow of their learning. Educational assessment may be a necessary evil that seldom feels authentic and is often tangential to any future real-world enterprise. The goal of this session is to ground assessment in the congruent activities of learning environments. A fictive variation can be conceptualized as a simultaneous examination of a subject from every conceivable viewpoint possible. A fictive variation captures a three-dimensional image, but also can begin to illuminate the dynamic relationships of the constituent parts of the subject. The goal of the process is to effectuate a gestalt of sorts, making the act of assessment fit the ebb and flow of a healthy learning environment.

Learning Objectives


This session is leveraging much of the research we have done at MVCC and published at NSSR related to student retention. In simple terms, the session will start with how assessment is located in a congruent teaching approach (A case for teaching congruence, 2022). Next, we will examine  how students can sensibly conceptualize assessment (3 responsibilities of students, 2023). The third component of the session will help teachers test and understand their intuitive abilities, particularly when utilizing formative assessment (70/70 quiz – a teaching efficacy tool, 2020). From there, we will discuss methods to adjust curricula based on timely formative assessment (Tools for the metacognitive educator, 2019). Finally, we will examine the patterns of the grades we give as well as the efficacy of those grades, particularly in those courses that are prerequisites for future courses (Confronting our grades: a reading department takes a hard look at its grades, 2021).

This session will be very interactive, as the participants will reflect and apply at each of the five stages of the session. The previous NSSR presentations were all well received, and two became NSSR webinars (the second, 3 responsibilities of students is an upcoming webinar). This session allows participants to take a larger, holistic view of assessment, focusing heavily on the challenges and unique opportunities of formative assessment. Finally, the concluding activity, examining grade patterns, has been a great introductory tool to get teachers to begin discussing their grades in a non-threatening manner. We utilize all these components in our Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTaL) workshops here in the U.S.A. and abroad. Teachers are professionals and members of an intellectual vocation – giving them a chance to think about their profession theoretically and somewhat abstractly is a luxury they rarely get outside of an often poorly-applied Philosophy of Education course in a Master’s program.


Presenters & Institution
Michael Morsches, Moraine Valley Community College
Michael Morsches is a trained teacher, and holds a Master's degree in Multicultural Education.  He has taught in public and private colleges and universities, and has served as an administrator in several institutions.  Michael has extensive experience in the Third World serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica and Yemen, and supervising Peace Corps volunteers in Tanzania.  He has worked with literacy, healthcare, girls' empowerment, and refugee initiatives in the Middle East and Africa. Michael’s primary interests lie in teacher education and cognition. Currently, Michael serves as the Dean of Learning Enrichment and College Readiness at Moraine Valley Community College in Chicago, Illinois. 

Grant Matthews, MPA, Lane Community College

Grant Matthews is the Associate Vice President for Career Technical Education and Workforce Development at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. In this role, he oversees the School of Professional Technical Careers which includes allied health education, business, technology, trades, the Lane Aviation Academy, high school connection initiatives, integrated education and training initiatives, small business development support, cooperative education, internships, and Carl D. Perkins funding. Grant has also held the position of Dean for Health Profession, Health, and Physical Education, Career Pathways, Adult Basic Education, and Academic Learning Skills at LCC. Prior to LCC, he served as an Assistant Dean at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Illinois and various roles at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon, including Diversity and Equity Officer. Grant is an experienced educator and education leader with a deep passion for students and the potential they bring for their own future. His passion for student success translates to dedication in his work and research. He holds an MPA in Higher Education Leadership from Portland State University and doctoral coursework in Community College Leadership at Oregon State University.

Building Dashboards to Monitor an Intrusive, Systems-Level Early Alert System

Over the past three years, Bowling Green State University has transformed its early alert initiative from a mostly passive process to a robust and intrusive system that centers students. There are now more than 30 offices whose staff participate as Outreach Coordinators (OCs) or referral partners. These changes were accomplished without additional funding and have created more opportunities for interactions among stakeholders. One key step was to develop a process that would allow for all undergraduate students to be contacted by a consistent staff member who has a close relationship with the student to increase the likelihood a meaningful connection would occur. To accomplish these goals, we negotiated a hierarchy among the 20 units whose team members currently serve as OCs. To inform the assignment of OCs, we use PowerBI to gather data regarding students' participation in various groups and their associations with staff members. Students are added into the database and then assigned to the staff member based on a negotiated hierarchy. To ensure we are sharing results with all stakeholders, we also use PowerBI to create dashboards that enable department heads and supervisors to monitor faculty participation and staff outreach efforts.

Learning Objectives: 

Participants will learn about: 

1.              How BGSU transitioned from a passive early alert system to an intrusive model 

2.              How to garner campus support around an early alert system 

3.              How to use Power BI to support early alert efforts 

4.              How BGSU uses the cycle of continuous improvement to improve student outcomes 

Presenter(s) & Institution:

Kimberlyn Brooks, Bowling Green State University

Kim Brooks currently serves as the Director of Student Success Analytics and Technologies in the Division of Student Engagement and Success at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). In this role, Kim works collaboratively with multiple Student and Academic Affairs units to supply data analysis using Power BI reports and dashboards, develop and/or implement technology solutions, streamline processes, and promote data literacy on campus to improve student outcomes. She also has managed the technology processes, Navigate 360 and Power BI, behind the early alert initiative as well as assessing the initiative for the past 9 years. Kim has earned a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Secondary Math from the University of Toledo and Master’s of Data Science from BGSU.

Sarah Jurden, Bowling Green State University

Sarah is the Director of Student Success Strategies and Initiatives in the Division of Student Engagement and Success at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Sarah works with colleagues on initiatives designed to improve University outcomes and ensures alignment of student success initiatives and practices across campus. She provides direct support to the Office of Pre-Professional Programs, BGSU learning communities, various STEM scholarship programs, and the institution's residential student success initiatives. Sarah earned a Master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration from the University of Central Arkansas and is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Leadership Studies from BGSU. 

Saddle Up: First-Year Retention at the University of Wyoming

In this Pre-Conference session, we share our successes and challenges from years 1-3 of implementing Saddle Up, a week-long, campus-wide, freshman preparatory camp for all first-time, full-time students at the University of Wyoming. We will provide tips and lessons learned that we hope will help groups looking to improve or start their onboarding programs. Along with providing context for how the program began, we will share guidance for data collection and tracking of student retention, how to coordinate with all key campus stakeholders, ways to hire and train 150 student peer-mentors, and what we suggest trying and not trying in a week-long orientation schedule. Join us for lively dialogue and enthusiasm for ensuring all freshmen succeed as they transition from high school. 

Learning Objectives:

In our session, we will share how Saddle Up, the University of Wyoming’s week-long freshmen preparatory camp, introduces students to the demands of college coursework and helps students develop critical thinking, planning, and study skills necessary for future success. We will also explain how our program has grown to offer students a look into the experience of an academic semester, including time management and student wellness. Participants will also become familiar with how we train and support our 150 peer mentors to assist students in building community and identifying and utilizing campus resources. We will outline for participants how the program went from inception just three years ago to a continuously evolving program where we can now track significant and detailed student retention data for participants. We will share essential planning tips and resources as well as sample schedules and advice for coordinating and managing large numbers of campus stakeholders who contribute to the week, including but not limited to campus housing and dining, advising teams, faculty, and support staff. We will also share how we hope to continue to build upon our Saddle Up success to offer students a more apparent bridge to other onboarding retention efforts at our institution. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions about Saddle Up as well as share their own orientation program successes and challenges as well as collectively brainstorm solutions to those challenges. 

  1. Participants will become familiar with the University of Wyoming’s freshmen week-long preparation camp, Saddle Up. 

  2. Participants will be able to identify key moves of the University of Wyoming that improved its orientation program from year to year in the first three years. 

  3. Participants will have the opportunity to share their own institution’s success and struggles with their orientation programs and brainstorm solutions to challenges. 

Presenter & Institution:

Nycole Courtney, EdD., University of Wyoming 

Dr. Nycole Courtney is the AVP and Dean of Student Success & Graduation at the University of Wyoming. As a first-generation transfer student, she champions efforts that reduce barriers for student retention.

Abby Markley, University of Wyoming

Abby Markley is the Associate Dean for Student Success & Graduation at UW. As a former K-12 educator and instructional coach, she is passionate about how institutions can better meet the needs of all students as they transition to post-secondary education.