Raising Retention: Learning Services

With retention rates at a ten-year high, Learning Services is being applauded for their work in ensuring the academic success that keeps students returning to the Mount each semester. Learning Services staff members cite programs such as Mount Cares, one-credit courses for students on academic probation and the Transition Program as ways the office has contributed to increased retention rates.  

Director of Learning Services Denise Marjarum says their mission is “to meet every student that walks through the door where they are,” and help them to develop a personalized plan for success. Students do not need to have a disability to utilize Learning Services’ assistance. Any student who is feeling overwhelmed by their coursework or wants additional academic support is able to come into the office and get help. “It’s not just about disability,” says Marjarum, “it’s for everyone.”

The staff believes that every student should be valued as a person, not by their GPA. The increased emphasis on allowing everyone to get help from Learning Services has brought more students seeking assistance through the doors.

“This year more than ever our discussions have helped to make student centered policy changes,” says Learning and Disability Specialist Alexis Burns. The office has helped to make campus more student-focused and has brought about a proactive focus to helping students. They do not simply want to fix student issues; they want to learn from student experiences to prevent problems that could potentially affect the campus as a whole.

Mount Cares is cited as one of the main programs helping students to find success. The Mount Cares committee is made up of several offices on campus, including Residence Life, Campus Ministry, Counseling, Public Safety, Academics and Learning Services. Anyone who is concerned about a student can submit a referral, and the committee meets to help students get what they need to be successful. Having the perspective of many offices helps Learning Services treat each situation holistically and personally.

Another program boosting retention is the one-credit classes for students on academic probation or with a dismissal alert. These students are required to meet with Learning Services to improve their grades, participate in leadership opportunities and to reflect on themselves and their academic position, all while earning class credit. The program allows students to understand where they are, where they have been and where they are going to develop big picture goals and find academic success.

The Transition Program is a mentoring system for first year and transfer students who may need extra support in adjusting to university academics. Students meet with a Learning Services staff member on a weekly basis to work on academic skills and to guide them through their adjustment to life at the Mount. The program shows the staff’s dedication to ensuring student achievement and helps students to become confident and successful.

Learning Services at the Mount differs from other schools because it focuses on the whole person; the office works to support each student holistically. “We don’t accommodate to the title. We accommodate each student individually,” says Marjarum.  

When asked what sets the Mount’s Learning Services apart, one senior said, “Because it’s a small school, everyone gets to know you and wants to work for you. You’re not just a number.” Staff members are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve what they’re doing and to help students get what they need for success.

Assistant Director Kristin Sites summed up the Learning Services goal by stating, “We’re just here to help.”

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