As part of an ongoing commitment to student success, The University of Southern Mississippi has realigned key service programs under one broad umbrella to create a comprehensive retention initiative for students from the time they enroll until graduation.
The changes include moving the Student Support Services Program (SSSP) under the Office of New Student and Retention Programs (NSRP), which was established last August to increase retention and graduation rates for new and continuing students. The popular Think Center – designed to help students build solution-oriented thinking skills – has also moved under NSRP.
“By connecting multiple programs with similar missions, we hope that New Student and Retention Programs can increase the visibility of all programs and enable greater coordination of efforts across units,” said Dr. Amy Chasteen Miller, Associate Provost for Academic Excellence at Southern Miss.
For many years SSSP has served countless students and supported their academic success through workshops, supplemental instruction, tutoring, and other programming. With the retirement last month of longtime director Dr. Susan Bourland, the decision was reached to transition that department into NSRP, which provides similar initiatives.
“Whether students need academic coaching, tutoring, learning skills development, or other academic support resources, they can come to New Student and Retention Programs, and we will point them in the right direction,” said Miller.
In her position as NSRP Director, Dr. Shea Kidd Houze has taken on the role of SSSP interim director until a permanent successor to Bourland is hired. Her office serves as the hub for a number of retention-based initiatives including: New Student Orientation, Golden Eagle Welcome Week, Jump Scholars Program, PASS Scholars Program, Academic Coaching, and student outreach programs.
She notes that while the first year remains a critical one in predicting student success long-term, the primary goal of NSRP is to re-imagine outreach initiatives and emphasize timely (four-year) graduation.
“Specifically, we are currently developing a comprehensive retention program that includes sophomores, and long-term, we look forward to developing innovative opportunities to engage transfer students as well as opportunities to promote student success during junior-year and capstone experiences,” said Houze. “Given this vision, the alignment of SSSP and the Think Center with our office provides us the opportunity to broaden our reach as it relates to student success and helps to bring our desire to connect with students at various transition points to reality.”
Miller points out that SSSP’s re-alignment will not affect the nature of services it provides to students, as the program will remain distinct and separate from others in the unit.
“That said, housing the program under the NSRP umbrella will raise its visibility in the University community and, hopefully, enable more students to benefit,” said Miller.
Bottom line: streamlining student success initiatives makes sense. “Aligning these areas will foster collaboration and make it easy for students to find support and thrive at Southern Miss and beyond,” said Houze.
To learn more about New Student and Retention Programs at Southern Miss, call 601.266.6405 or visit: https://www.usm.edu/new-student-retention-programs