Cal State Fullerton has increased graduation rates, improved student persistence and dramatically lowered the student achievement gap since the creation of a university-wide Strategic Plan four years ago. While the success is attributable to a myriad of factors, the innovative Student Success Dashboard is a foundational element linked to the advancement of our university.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Student Success Dashboard, it is a powerful tool used at CSUF that provides us with real-time tracking on the academic progress of all 40,000-plus enrolled students. The database displays information in a manner that is current, comprehensive and actionable. We can check degree completion status, sort data based on demographics (including, but not limited to, college and major, ethnicity, first-time freshmen, transfer students) and measure four-year graduation rates. Moreover, with student contact information readily available in the system, we can easily and immediately connect with students who we feel may need support on the journey to graduation. In sum, we are able to empower, guide and support our students, helping them remain on a timely track in the pursuit of a degree.
The development of this database was an enormous undertaking that required collaborative efforts from multiple units across the university. In 2012, following CSUF President Mildred García’s Convocation address that discussed the graduation rates, the Division of Information Technology (I.T.) and the Division of Academic Affairs, or more specifically Institutional Research & Analytical Studies (IRAS), began to meet with the hope of developing a user-friendly analytical tool that could assist in tracking and improving student success. After a period filled with numerous prototypes, I.T. and IRAS constructed a functioning model and continued along the creative path. During this time, they defined performance indicators and designed the dashboard data tables and charts, among other things. Following the initial stages of creation, the Division of Student Affairs joined the process to provide additional guidance and feedback. We introduced the developers to our vision of how the Student Success Dashboard could serve as a complementary and informative tool for our innovative Student Success Teams.
The work that occurred on this project among staff throughout campus was collaborative in every sense. While partnerships during development processes can often come with challenges, we experienced very few of them. Leadership and staff members within each unit helped advance the creation of the Student Success Dashboard by understanding roles and responsibilities as well as by communicating effectively. Everyone involved respected one another, actively engaged in constructive conversation and listened to varying ideas. Moreover, we all realized the strength of teamwork and understood the common end goal of boosting student success.
In closing, this invaluable invention has truly transformed the way we support our students. All of our Student Success Teams, which are each chaired by an Associate Dean and comprised of an Assistant Dean, Career Specialist, Graduation Specialist, Retention Specialist, College Staff and Faculty Advisors, have benefitted tremendously from its creation. We have been able to cut our achievement gap from 13 percent to 6.4 percent, and in 2016 over 10,000 students received a degree from CSUF. As I reflect on the efforts taken to build CSUF into a comprehensive national model for student success, I am so grateful for the staff that worked diligently to put the Student Success Dashboard together. If you choose to follow a similar path, the one piece of advice I would give is to remember your students. With every decision made during the development stages, remember the students who you will support, encourage and help succeed. If this is your focus, everything else should fall into place.