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Columbus State University Campus Plan Update 2018

Institutional Mission and Student Body Profile

Columbus State University (CSU) is a four-year public institution that offers more than 100 programs at the certificate, associate, bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, and doctoral levels. Many degrees are conferred in professional areas at both undergraduate and graduate levels in response to student demand and service area needs. Due to the nature of Complete College Georgia, this report only concerns our undergraduate degree programs.

Institutional Mission

The mission of Columbus State University is to “empower individuals to contribute to the advancement of our local and global communities through an emphasis on excellence in teaching and research, life-long learning, cultural enrichment, public/private partnerships, and service to others.”

The institutional focus on excellence in teaching and research as well as the emphasis on life-long learning, cultural enrichment, public-private partnerships and service to others influences the key priorities of the college completion work undertaken by Columbus State University. The University financially supports student research and creative inquiry projects facilitated by faculty mentors. CSU has a strong commitment to service and has provided significant leadership in meeting the needs of the community, the region, and the state through endeavors such as the Early College initiative, Dual Enrollment, service to military-affiliated students, Embark on Education (for homeless and foster youths), BOOST (childcare reimbursement program), and the development of high-quality online programs and services that allow students to decrease time to completion regardless of their geographic location.

Student Body Profile

In Fall 2017, CSU enrolled 8,452 students, including an undergraduate student population of 6,798. Enrollment increased by 0.5% over Fall 2016. The institution’s population is comprised of 63% full-time students. CSU also follows national trends with the female population representing 60% of the student body. The student population is 50% white, 37% black, 2% Asian, 6% Hispanic, and 5% other (American Indian or Alaskan Native, international, two or more races, or unknown). Since Fall 2010, the number of transfer students has risen 8%. Of the new transfer students in Fall 2017, 51 (8%) transferred from Columbus Technical College, with whom the university has a robust articulation agreement. Of the total undergraduate student population, 1,964 (29%) students were first generation college students, an increase of 8.8% in the last five years. For more information on these and other “at risk” populations, see our goal “Persistence and Progression: Through use of predictive analytics, provide intentional advising and helpful interventions to keep ‘at risk’ students on track to graduate” (pp. 2-4).

Columbus State University utilizes moderately selective admissions standards and processes for most applicants (high school grade point average of 2.5 and SAT minimum scores of 440 Critical Reading and 410 Math or ACT English 17/Math 17). Modified standards are utilized for applicants within the local service area in accordance with the University System of Georgia-mandated local access mission (high school grade point average of 2.0 and SAT minimum scores of 330 Critical Reading and 310 Math or ACT English 12/Math 14).

The University System of Georgia (USG) designates CSU as one of the three “access” institutions within the state because no state colleges in the USG are located within the geographic service area. The service area of Columbus State University is defined as the following Georgia counties: Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Meriwether, Muscogee, Stewart, Talbot, Taylor, and Troup. In Fall 2017, 48.9% of the new student population was drawn from these counties.

The University takes pride in its role as an access institution, but this role also presents challenges in student recruitment and retention. As noted in Tables 1.1 and 1.2 below, first-time, full-time (FT/FT) students admitted with learning support status through the institution’s access mission were retained and graduated at much lower rates than students admitted with regular admission status. These tables display FT/FT freshmen because total retention or graduation rates would include transfer students.

Table 1.1. CSU Retention Rate Trends for First-Time, Full-Time Freshmen: 
2011-2012 through 2016-2017








Non-Learning Support







Learning Support















Table 1.2. CSU Bachelor’s Degree Six-Year Graduation Rates for FT/FT Freshmen: 
2005-2011 through 2011-2017









Non-Learning Support















Learning Support






























This year, CSU focused on helping students succeed by

  • Investigating ways to minimize or eradicate non-academic reasons for being “at risk” (financial, mental health, career uncertainty, child care, first generation, etc.)—Goal #1;
  • Motivating them to earn degrees on time (enroll in 15 credits per term and earn the associate degrees they deserve)—Goal #2;
  • Providing them with program maps, focus area maps, accurate course rotation schedules, and informed advising to help them navigate the road to completion—Goal #3; and
  • Redesigning high DFWI courses, thereby improving student learning and retention—Goal #4;

In short, we have carefully aligned our goals to target our particular students to help them succeed in four different ways.

Institutional Completion Goals, High-Impact Strategies and Activities

Goal #1: Through use of predictive analytics, provide intrusive advising and helpful interventions to keep “at risk” students on track to graduate

With the help of the predictive analytics capability of the Education Advisory Board’s (EAB) Student Success Collaborative (SSC), CSU’s Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) serves the whole student by not only focusing on academic progress, but also by addressing their social, emotional, physical, and financial needs. This year, ACE has facilitated student success through programs such as the Early Alert System, BOOST (a Quality Care for Children program), Embark in Education, and Athletic Mental Health Awareness. In addition, ACE has defined our “at risk” population and created a tracking system for identifying and serving these students. Positive results with “at risk” student groups should positively affect successful completion of credits, retention rates, and graduation rates.

High-Impact Strategies

Used predictive analytics (EAB) and established criteria for identifying students who are “at risk” and may need special interventions.

Ensure that students who met above criteria received timely and targeted advising and intervention.

Completion Goal

Through use of DegreeWorks and predictive analytics (EAB), provide intentional advising and helpful interventions to keep “at risk” students on track to graduate

Summary of Activities

Early Alert System

Faculty submitted names of academically “at risk” students using the Early Alert System (EAS) in EAB. EAS is designed to assist undergraduate students who demonstrate difficulty in their classes by making them aware of support services available and by encouraging them to use them. Alerts are issued for a variety of reasons. Some are originated by faculty for “excessive absences” or “poor academic performance.” Others can be issued by any EAB user, for example, “food or housing insecurity” or “disruptive behavior.” Alerts can also be positive in nature, like “Honors College candidate.” These alerts are then assigned to a Point of Contact depending on the nature of the concern. Many of the faculty-generated alerts are assigned to the student’s academic advisor for follow up. Identified students may also be referred to appropriate and effective campus resources, such as the Academic Center for Tutoring (ACT), Counseling Center, Office of Accommodation and Accessibility, and the Center for Career Development.

Identifying and Tracking

We have expanded use of Banner and the EAB Student Success Collaborative to collect information that will keep students on track to graduate.

In 2017-2018, we developed a process to track which students were actually participating in the referrals recommended by advisors in ACE, faculty advisors, or other professional advisors. Previously, ACE referred students to campus resources like the Academic Center for Tutoring (ACT), the Center for Career Development, and the Counseling Center to improve student success rates, but was unable to track which students actually followed through in utilizing these services. Using EAB's alert feature, advisors are now able to document these referrals. When issued, the student receives a notification with information on the recommended service.

Whereas ACT has been tracking appointments for years, the Center for Career Development and the Counseling Center have only started doing so in Spring 2018. It will now be possible to identify which students received assistance. In the case of referrals to the Counseling Center, aggregate numbers will be used to protect privacy. Other types of activities tracked include the following:

Academic Success Advising


SAP Advising


Transfer Advising


Financial Literacy Workshops


CSU currently has Banner reports that identify all students who have not taken ENGL 1101 or ENGL 1102. The report will be refined to meet our needs to identify students who are not enrolled in the gateway English and mathematics courses and who did not bring in prior learning credit to satisfy these requirements.  


CSU was one of the first USG schools to offer BOOST, a Quality Care for Children grant program that provides childcare scholarships for full-time student-parents with children age 4 and under. These scholarships are for PELL-eligible juniors and seniors who are enrolled full time, have maintained Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), have a GPA of 2.0 or higher upon applying for the program and maintain a 2.5 GPA once receiving funds. Quality Care for Children is gathering data to demonstrate the positive impact of available childcare on college graduation rates to build a case for state investment. The number of slots allotted to CSU in the program has steadily increased over the years (5 slots in Fall 2016; 10 in Spring 2017; 35 in Fall 2017; 62 in Spring 2018).

Embark in Education (Homelessness and Foster Care)

In Fall 2017, the Wisconsin HOPE Lab Study collaborated with CSU and other USG Institutions to administer a survey to all entering freshmen in order to determine the needs of students with housing and food insecurities.

In its Embark in Education program, ACE aids homeless and foster care students with groceries, emergency housing, tuition aid, bill payment, etc., as needed.

Athletic Mental Health Awareness

Since student athletes are under particular stress in college, we initiated a program to support student success through Athletic Mental Health Awareness. See Appendix I for detailed information on meetings and accomplishments regarding Mental Health Awareness for the 2017-2018. 

Measures of Progress and Success

Baseline Status

  • # of EAS alerts: 48 for 2013-2014.
  • 5 students participated in BOOST in Fall 2016
  • 8 students participated in Embark efforts in Fall 2016
  • Tracking baseline: only ACT tracked students prior to  2018
  • Athletic Mental Health Awareness participation:  68/258  athletes, 40/40 coaches
  • Fall 2010 percentage of credits successfully completed was 66%
  • Fall 2014 – Fall 2015 retention rates for all undergraduate, degree-seeking students was 79.3%.
  • Fall 2014 – Fall 2015 retention rates for FT/FT freshmen was 71.1%.
  • Graduate rate 28.7% of FT/FT freshmen in 2002.

Interim Measures of Progress

  • Our data here is extensive. Please see Appendix II: Interim Measures of Progress.
  • Athletic Mental Health Awareness: Interim Measures: 68/258 students, 40/40 coaches

Measures of Success by 2020

  • Number of EAS referrals: 150
  • Number of BOOST scholarships: 50 (already surpassed by 12 slots)
  • Number of Embark students helped: 10 (already achieved)
  • Successfully completed credits: 85 (already achieved)
  • Retention rate all undergraduate, degree-seeking students: 95%
  • Retention rate FT/FT freshmen: 75%
  • Graduation rate: 36% (currently at 32.4% for FT/FT freshmen)

Lessons Learned

ACE greatly improved intentional advising efforts and helpful interventions with EAS, BOOST, and Embark due to the EAB SSC and partnerships/connections with outside resources.

Because EAB is user friendly, faculty have found it easier to submit Early Alert documentation and ACE has found it easier to contact advisors and monitor messages through this platform.

Primary Points of Contact:

Ms. Lisa Shaw, Director, Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) among others (Julio Llanos, Kimberly McDonald, Kelly Koch, Chris Holloway, Melissa Young)

Goal #2: Increase the number of degrees earned “on time” by encouraging students to enroll in 15 credit hours each term, by awarding transfer degrees through the reverse transfer of credit, and by auditing baccalaureate degree-seeking students to allow for award of associate degrees as appropriate.

In 2013, a review of institutional data indicated that many students were not enrolled in a minimum of 15 credit hours each term. In Fall 2013, 3,680 undergraduate students were taking less than 15 credit hours per term. This group had an average overall GPA of 2.81. During the same term, 1,015 were enrolled in 15 or more credit hours. The average overall GPA of that group was 3.12. A campus-wide initiative was implemented in Summer 2014 to provide new students beginning in Fall 2014 with 15-hour schedules for their first term of study. These schedules were developed in advance by academic advisors with input from the students.

Since Fall 2014, we have provided information on the 15-to-Finish campaign to incoming students through our orientation presentations and to professional/faculty advisors through our advising training sessions throughout fall and spring semesters. 

In 2016, we began awarding transfer degrees through the reverse transfer of credit and in 2018 began auditing baccalaureate degree-seeking students to allow for possible award of associate degrees as appropriate.

Finally, CSU has a high transfer population, in part because of our location near Fort Benning. The transfer GPA is not considered for students with less than 30 transferable hours if they otherwise meet freshman admissions requirements such as HSGPA and standardized test scores. There is a minimum transfer GPA for students with 30 or more transferable hours. At times, transfer students have grade point averages below 2.0 and are not meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) with financial aid resulting in difficulty with degree completion. ACE has begun a new program with the Dean of the College of Letters and Sciences (COLS) to assign an advisor to help these transfer students complete an associate’s degree while becoming more successful in their classes and improving their GPAs. Once they achieve an associate’s degree and continue to receive financial aid, they can move toward a bachelor’s degree.

High-Impact Strategies

  • Used preference surveys to preregister entering freshmen (15-to-Finish)
  • Changed institutional culture to emphasize taking full-time course loads of 15 hours or more: freshman orientation video, advisor training, intentional advising, financial incentive after 15 hours, default 15-hr schedule (15-to-Finish)
  • Analyzed data for reverse transfer degrees at associate’s level (Reverse Transfer)
  • Analyzed data for auditing baccalaureate students for associate degrees (Auditing Baccalaureate Students)
  • Began using College Scheduler (Spring 2018) to aid students in creating more workable schedules

Completion Goal

Increase the number of degrees earned “on time”

Summary of Activities for 15-to-Finish

Continue using the Preference Survey with entering freshmen. The University is proactively sending this survey to each new student before orientation and creating their course schedule prior to the student’s scheduled orientation session. This ensures students are taking 15 credit hours, courses that are related to their major, and that they have a balanced schedule that fosters success. 

All first-year students are pre-registered for their first semester based on the appropriate program map for their selected focus area or major. When students have credit for prior learning (dual enrollment, AP, IB, CLEP, transfer courses, etc.), academic advisors may register students for an alternative schedule that is consistent with the focus area or major. All students are required to meet with an academic advisor prior to registration for the second term. In this meeting, the student and advisor discuss the student’s progress and the student is provided with a list of appropriate courses that coincide with the program map for the second term for the desired major or focus area.

At the current time, advisors have to manually check each student’s record to ensure that the courses for which they register are appropriate for the program of study. We are currently investigating how we can utilize DegreeWorks to more efficiently determine which students are enrolled in courses appropriate for the focus area or major.

The Associate Vice President for Institutional Research and Effectiveness is currently assessing the tools at our disposal to extract data that will yield meaningful information about course demand with the ultimate goal of providing adequate sections to enable students to progress in a timely manner. This process necessitates the refinement of program maps to incorporate specific course recommendations and the development of full year course schedules for planning purposes. Academic Affairs coordinates scheduling with various points of administration in each college and allocates physical space using Optimizer in AdAstra. 

  • Continued using 15-to-Finish video at freshman orientations.
  • Stressed 15-to Finish philosophy to faculty and professional advisors through training each semester.
  • Encouraged students to take 15+ semester hours due to financial incentive (all credits over 15 hours are “free”).
  • Successfully used College Scheduler in Spring 2018 to help students find workable schedules in a less stressful and time-consuming manner.

Summary of Activities for Awarding Reverse Transfer

CSU participated in the USG Associate Degree You Deserve (ADD) program funded by the Lumina Grant. The USG identified students throughout the state of Georgia who may be eligible to receive an associate degree by reverse transfer based on hours earned and GPA. The students were emailed by their current home institution and asked to opt-in to the program by completing a transcript request form to send current grades to their previous institution. The USG contracted with Parchment to send and receive transcripts at no cost to these students.

In 2016-2018, CSU’s Office of the Registrar reviewed 3 (2016), 5 (2017), and 17 (2018) students identified by the USG and awarded 1 (2016), 1 (2017), and 5 (2018) reverse transfer associate degrees.

The ADD initiative ended March 31, 2018.

Summary of Activities for Auditing Baccalaureate Students

In March 2018, CSU’s Provost Office provided the Office of the Registrar with a list of 2,141 previous CSU adult learners with the hopes of reengaging them to complete their bachelor’s degree. These students were last enrolled in fall 2013-spring 2016.

The Office of the Registrar identified twenty-two students from this list who had completed the required coursework needed to obtain an associate degree. These students were contacted by the Academic Center for Excellence and asked if they would like to opt-in for graduation. For most students, this simply required the completion of the Outcomes Assessment Test (a CSU graduation requirement); however some students also had to meet the US and/or Georgia History/Constitution requirements.

Two students opted-in, applied for graduation, completed the Outcomes Assessment, and were awarded associate degrees.

Measures of Progress and Success for 15-to-Finish

Baseline Status

In Fall 2013, 1,951 students (27.8%) were enrolled in 15 hours or more.

Interim Measures of Progress

Increased number of students enrolled in 15 hours or more—increase of 2.7%, Fall 2013 to Fall 2017 (30.5%).

See Appendix III for Cohort Progression of FT/FT freshmen.

  • Fall 2017: 2,071 (30.5%)
  • Fall 2016: 2,235 (32.2%)
  • Fall 2015: 2,228 (32.1%)
  • Fall 2014: 2,115 (30.7%)
  • Fall 2013: 1,951 (27.8%)

Measures of Success

By 2020, we aim to have 35% of our students enrolled in 15 hours or more per semester.

Measures of Progress and Success for Awarding Associate Degrees

Baseline Status

In 2016, 1 reverse transfer associate degree awarded

Interim Measures of Progress

In 2018, 5 reverse transfer associate degrees awarded

Measures of Success by 2020

By 2020, 10 reverse transfer associate degrees awarded

Lessons Learned

For an accurate 15-to-Finish plan, creating a precise “course demand” schedule is extremely difficult but necessary if we are going to offer the right number and kinds of courses students need to progress. If 90% of students are able to enroll in needed Area A courses each semester, we feel we have achieved a significant accomplishment.  We have achieved this goal every Fall and Spring semesters.

Primary Points of Contact:

Stephanie Speer, Associate Registrar; Lisa Shaw, Director of ACE

Goal #3: Decrease excess credits earned on the path to getting a degree (associate degree in 2 years, bachelor’s degree in 4 years) through judicious creation of program maps, focus area maps, course rotation schedules, and conscientious advising

We have passionately pursued this goal and have had 100% compliance and buy-in on campus from advisors, advising centers, faculty, chairs, deans, and administrators.

High-Impact Strategies

Developed program maps for every undergraduate degree, major, and track and the combination five-year BS+MS program in Earth and Space Science; some STEM  programs have developed multiple program maps depending on various math placement possibilities for incoming students

Created eight focus area maps for students uncertain of major choice

Required departments to develop course rotation schedules

Completion Goal

Decrease excess credits earned on the path to getting a degree through judicious creation of degree program and focus area maps.

Summary of Activities

We expanded focus area maps from 5 to 8 areas by adding maps for Health Professions, Humanities, and Fine and Performing Arts. These are published on the ACE website. (See Appendix IV.)

Annually, we review program maps before publishing them in the new catalog. It takes a part-time employee working 19 hours per week approximately 3 months to verify correlation of map information with the catalog. In the process, many maps are corrected/updated and any errors found in the online catalog are corrected then as well.

For 2017-2018, we issued new guidelines for all maps, including adding course titles as well as the course codes on all maps.

For the 2018-2019 catalog, we are validating that all maps and focus areas indicate the appropriate math pathway course and contain a minimum of 9 credit hours of discipline-related credits in the first 30 hours of coursework.

In 2018, we randomly selected eight bachelor programs to confirm that course rotation schedules were consistent with program maps. For this study, two programs out of each of the four colleges were chosen at random. We found 98% compliance, with only 9 of 480 upper division hours of coursework in the rotation schedule found to be discrepant with that in the corresponding program map. The department chairs of programs with discrepancies were notified and their maps and/or course rotation schedules corrected.

Measures of Progress and Success

Baseline Status

0 program maps or interest-area maps in 2012

Interim Measures of Success

In 2013-2014 we created program maps for all 4-year degrees at CSU.

In 2014-2015, we created maps for all 2-year degrees, updated all maps, and revised the map template, standardizing it across 98% of the disciplines; the exception is a carousel map used by the RN to BSN program, a two-year program of short-term rotational courses.

Excess hours have decreased from 144.7 (2015) to 143.9 (2017).

In 2015-2016, we added five focus area maps to the ACE website.

In 2017-2018, we added three more focus area maps and revised the previous five maps.

Measures of Success

Keeping all program maps and focus area maps updated so that they match requirements for the degree/major/track, comply with Momentum Year requirements, and accurately reflect course rotations and offerings each semester/year.

Lessons Learned

Keeping maps updated and current is time-consuming, but extremely important. The maps must be accurate in order to be useful and effective.

We currently use a template for 98% of our program maps, but will be changing to another format next year when we will be using Courseleaf, which should also allow use to merge catalog and program maps more easily and be ADA compliant.

Primary Point of Contact:

Dr. Barbara Hunt, CCG Project Manager

Goal #4: Restructure instructional delivery to support educational excellence and student success by improving the pass rate of students in core courses with high DWFI rates through participation of Gateway to Completion, John Gardner Initiative

CSU is actively engaged in the Gateways to Completion (G2C) initiative and has identified four critical gateway courses that will be redesigned. These are ENGL 1101: English Composition 1; MATH 1111: College Algebra; COMM 1110: Public Speaking; and ECON 2015: Macroeconomics. The courses are purposefully drawn from all three colleges that offer courses in the core curriculum. Appropriate CSU faculty and administrators have participated in all system-sponsored G2C events and the institution has moved forward to complete the inventory, administer the student survey, and prepare academic teams to begin their work in Fall 2018.

High-Impact Strategies

Develop, using the Gardner Institute process, an evidence-based plan to improve student learning and overall student success through the redesign of four gateway courses, COMM 1110, ECON 2105, ENGL 1101, and MATH 1111, each of which affects large numbers of students.  

Track, promote, and support the use of high-impact instructional practices as defined by AAC&U’s LEAP Initiative across campus.

Institute a process of core curriculum assessment where panels of faculty review student artifacts, assess them against LEAP Value Rubrics, report findings through the General Education Committee to appropriate departmental personnel, and institute course improvements as needed.

Completion Goal

Increasing the number of productive grades in these critical core courses should improve not only student learning, but also retention and graduation rates.

Summary of Activities (2017 to Present)

Select courses to redesign and select participants (Fall 2017)

Require academic teams (administrators, faculty) to attend all system-sponsored G2C events (2017-2018)

Between August and November 2018, each course redesign committee will present an update to the G2C Steering Committee and write three full reports in Spring 2019, each based on two of the six G2C Principles and guided by Gardner’s Key Performance Indicators.  

The full three-year G2C process works in three phases:

  • AY 2018-19: Collect and analyze data, develop course redesign
  • AY 2019-20: Offer at least some sections of redesigned courses, collect and analyze data, revise redesign.
  • AY 2020-21: Offer newly revised courses, scale up to all sections, and institute a process of continuous improvement.

Measures of Progress and Success

Baseline Status

The total DFWI rates from Academic Year 2016-17 for each gateway course are listed below, but in analyzing this data, the G2C Task Force will disaggregate the data to identify redesign opportunities to enhance student success.

  • COMM 1110 - 13.4%
  • ECON 2105 - 16.6%
  • ENGL 1101 - 16.3%
  • MATH 1111 - 19.0%

Interim Measures of Success

Stay on schedule (see timeline in Activities section above)

Measures of Success

The goal is for all students to have equitable access to the learning these courses offer and for that deepened learning experience to be demonstrated through improved rates of success in progression and graduation. The more immediate goal will be to identify any structural barriers to success that exist, particularly if they affect students inequitably.

Lessons Learned

Standardizing syllabuses in core courses will challenge some faculty members’ concepts of academic freedom.

Primary Point of Contact:

Dr. Pat McHenry, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies

Reflections, Observations, and Plans for Next Year

Successful Strategies from last year

Increasing number of degrees that are earned on time by targeting institutional culture to increase number of students enrolled in 15 or more hours. Success here is due to preregistering students and showing the 15-to-Finish video to students and families at orientation. There was an increase of 2.7% since Fall 2013 in the number of students enrolled in 15 or more hours. We also focused efforts to offer the numbers and kinds of core classes needed as well as rewarded juniors and seniors with extra special attention (such as increased number of internships and workshops on soft-skills development).

Transforming the catalog to include program maps for all undergraduate degrees. We are confident that these maps will positively affect RPG in the future and contribute greatly to the culture of “15-to-finish.” The 2017-2018 catalog represents the fourth year these maps are included. In addition, five focus area maps were revised and three were newly developed for entering freshmen who are still deciding on a major. 

Using various methods to keep students on track and identify students “at risk.” These methods include reminding faculty to use the Early Alert System in the EAB Student Success Collaborative, working with outside organizations to provide childcare for student-parents, and using intentional and proactive advising to refer students to appropriate and effective campus resources.

Creating sub-categories in EAS so that reasons other than academic difficulty can be targeted and resolved.

Tracking whether students are using referral services as directed. 2017-2018 was the first year we were able to track such referrals and we will work to refine such tracking.

Instituting our inaugural Athletic Mental Health Awareness program.

Validating high correspondence between program maps and rotation schedules, thereby cross checking the accuracy of the maps to real time course offerings.

Coding various focus areas so we can better track behavior of students still deciding on majors.

Simplifying course enrollment through College Scheduler, which creates multiple schedules for students once they specify what courses they need and when they can take them. As a result, we expect to see an increase in the number of hours in which students enroll.

Least Effective Strategies from last year

Awarding transfer degrees through reverse transfer credit has not involved  the numbers of students we had hoped it would benefit, with only 5 receiving awards this year. We plan to continue this strategy in hopes of increasing the number of awards.

Tracking first-generation college students has proved to be a difficult task in EAB but we will continue working on this issue for next year.

Continued Goals for 2018-2019

  • Award transfer degrees through the reverse transfer of credit and audit baccalaureate degree-seeking students to allow for award of associate degrees as appropriate.
  • Improve the pass rates of core courses with high DFWI rates by participating in G2C and redesigning four core courses.
  • Track referral data to confirm which students are following up on the referrals recommended by advisors in ACE, faculty advisors, or other professional advisors.
  • Support student success through Athletic Mental Health Awareness (and perhaps the mental health of other “performance majors” such as music and theatre).
  • Expand the use of the EAB SSC to keep students on track to graduate, including new focus on first-generation college students. We tried to track this group this year but were unable to do so.
  • Define and communicate the standard of care expected for all undergraduate students especially those in “at risk” populations.
  • Maintain and update program maps and focus area maps as needed.
  • Cross-check program maps with rotational schedules for major coursework.

New Goals for next year

  • Adopt Courseleaf and use it as a new template for catalog entries and program maps, connecting two currently disparate systems into one.
  • Develop ADA compliant program maps using Courseleaf.
  • Create a coding system for undecided majors using focus area maps so that no students, beginning August 1, 2018, are classified as Undeclared, and so we can track student progress using focus area maps (change of majors, retention rates, pass rates, etc.)—something we have never done before.
  • Include Strengthening Institutions Programs (SIP) Grant activities such as the Learning Support Resource Center, academic coaches, and Math Anxiety support.

As always, we strive to continue our success not so much by doing the same thing but by having the same attitude: a can-do spirit that truly sees obstacles as opportunities.  It requires us to be bi-focal; that is, possess the capacity to see the particulars and see the “big picture” at the same time.  The latter is strategic vision, a rare commodity; the former is operational vision that is just as precious. CSU is fortunate to have the precise combination of people who, together, allow us to see something two ways at once, both close and far. 

Momentum Year

According to Georgia’s CCG website, students are most successful when they make purposeful choice, have clear paths for completion, and demonstrate an academic mindset. In Fall 2017, CSU created its CCG goals for the 2017-2018, not realizing that a section of the CCG narrative report would, in fact, be devoted to Momentum Year updates. Thus, one of our four goals (Goal #3) falls directly under the purview of Momentum Year and involves both focus area maps and program maps.

Academic Focus Areas and Undecided Majors

In the past year, we have expanded our focus areas from five to eight (see Appendix IV) so that “students groping with uncertainty can pursue coursework from the start that contributes to college completion and also provides exposure to potential majors, helping them refine their post-secondary path” (Momentum Year website). These focus area maps were carefully constructed to dovetail into every major on campus so that all courses in the first year of a given general area (for example, Business) will count across all programs under that focus area umbrella and “offer an informative exposure to the subject field.”  Focus area maps list courses that are broadly applicable across a wide range of majors within the area, helping students avoid enrollment in unnecessary credits as they narrow their program choice.

The undecided/undeclared option for students will be eliminated on the Columbus State University (CSU) application by August 1, 2018 so that students applying for subsequent terms will select an academic focus area instead of the previous option. Students selecting focus areas, including Exploratory, will be advised by student retention specialists in the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE). Students selecting the Exploratory focus area will be required to engage in specific activities to help facilitate the selection of a specific focus area or major.

These activities will be sponsored by ACE, the Center for Career Development, the Counseling Center, and academic departments and colleges across campus. ACE, the Center for Career Development, and Counseling Center are now working on scaffolding their career support services more effectively. The students will be referred to the Center for Career Development for career advising and to complete the PAN Skills Assessment. This assessment is designed to identify strengths and interests, explore career fields based on those strengths and interests, and develop professional skills. Students will also be referred to the Counseling Center for career counseling to assist with selecting a major. The Counseling Center also administers the Strong Interest Inventory. The results of the Strong Inventory will help guide conversations with experienced counselors to discuss potential majors and career paths. Referrals will be recorded in EAB and will be monitored to ensure that students complete the required interventions and activities.

Program Maps

CSU has maintained extensive program maps for all associate and bachelor degrees for the last five years, including a 5-year map for the BS+MS combination program in Earth and Space Science. Some of our STEM programs have multiple maps, based on the potential starting points of their math pathways. For years, we have mandated the completion of core English and the aligned mathematics course (including any required learning support courses) in the first year and required all program maps to illustrate a minimum of 30 credits per year. This year we are also ensuring that all maps include a minimum of nine credit hours (three courses) in the first year of a student’s selected major or academic focus area.

 Academic Mindset

CSU distributed the Academic Mindset survey in Fall 2017 to all incoming first-year students. The return rate for the survey was low, and therefore the information it provided for planning purposes was less than ideal. However, CSU is developing strategies to increase survey participation in Fall 2018. These include publicizing the survey during orientation, providing incentives to complete the survey, and encouraging participation during first-year courses.

CSU began to offer Mindset training and discussion for faculty in the past year, which included book circles on related topics and a workshop led by academic futurist Ken Steele this past April. CSU’s Faculty Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning is planning to scale up the discussion about Mindsets among faculty by offering workshops during Fall 2018 Planning Week, encouraging discussion of the topic during its new faculty orientation series, offering more book circles on the topic, and making stronger connections among the different workshops and discussion groups it sponsors.  

The First Year Experience (FYE) program and Academic Center for Excellence were recently awarded a three-million dollar Strengthening Institutions Programs grant from USDOE, which will support a cohort of academic coaches and peer mentors, a Learning Support Resource Center, and consulting from nationally recognized experts. These services are aligned with instilling Growth Mindsets in students who can most benefit from it. In addition, the FYE program has made direct linkages between this year’s Common Reading and Growth Mindset discussions by adopting The Working Poor as its text.

The challenge will be in tracking and assessing the effectiveness of the various activities (including those mentioned above and others) related to the Mindset discussion. CSU’s Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness and the Faculty Center, among others, are developing strategies for meaningful assessment of activities related to these efforts.

In summary, these three elements—purposeful choice, clear path for completion, and academic mindset—create a Momentum Year for  students by providing them with what they need “to find their path, get on that path, and build velocity in the direction of their goals” (CCG website).

Particularly helpful for CSU has been to develop a 2018-2019 calendar for our Momentum Year Implementation Plan (See Appendix V). This calendar is helping us see what we need to do and when we need to have it done. In short, it is helping us stay on track.