Montana State University

Twelve projects receive funds to enhance retention on MSU campus

May 2, 2011

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
Montana State University Provost Martha Potvin has announced that 12 proposals submitted to the Retention Initiative 2011 will receive funding.

"We believe that providing opportunities for students to further engage with their own learning and to interact directly with faculty and professional staff will result in a richer student experience that not only keeps students on track for degree completion but increases their likelihood of success in future endeavors," Potvin said. "We have been impressed with the depth, breadth and creativity of the proposals submitted that will engage our students in meaningful projects."

The recipients, their proposals and the one-time funding they will receive follow:

College of Arts and Architecture Professional Practices Series -- A $6,600 grant will set up a series of monthly lunch workshops for freshmen in the College of Arts and Architecture in which the students will interact with faculty, staff, senior students, assess their strengths and connect to the college.

College of Business -- Freshman retention will be increased by improving student writing and critical thinking with a one-on-one coaching program offered through the Bracken Business Communications Clinic. Principal investigator is Terry Profata for an initiative funded for $10,000.

College of Education, Health and Human Development -- The college will receive $10,000 to continue a professional DynaMetrics program tools initiative conducted by Lynn M. Owens that helps students understand how to harness their strengths in pursuit of academic and career goals. The funding will help Owens continue using the tool in upper division courses as well as introduce it to freshmen and sophomores.

College of Engineering -- Three programs will be funded in the COE.

Freshmen students in mechanical and industrial engineering will receive hands-on experience with engineering concepts in small, personalized groups in this proposal by Mandy Rutherford, adjunct instructor, to enhance the college's freshman Introduction to Engineering course. Funded for $9,932, the proposal expands the current course to a one-credit lecture plus a one-credit lab.

James Becker's proposal calls for introducing optional supplemental instruction to students taking gateway engineering courses in electrical engineering. The supplemental instruction will promote in-depth learning, particularly for high-risk students. The classes will help freshmen learn what to learn and how to learn in this initiative, which was funded for $10,000.

David A. Miller of mechanical engineering and Keith F. Fisher of mechanical engineering technology are the principal investigators of this proposal that has a goal of doubling retention rates in the two programs by introducing first-year students to computer simulation of engineering systems as well as through experiential learning activities, such as labs. The initiative is funded for $10,000.

College of Letters and Science
Tom Hayes, adjunct instructor in math sciences, received $9,958 to introduce a College Algebra mastery exam and mandatory one-on-one time with an instructor. This is aimed to increase the pass rate in the math core class.

MSU Library -- This grant will promote the Library's subject liaison program for freshmen and their parents. Many students don't realize that there are individual library faculty members responsible for all student subject areas or departments. Funding of $7,720 will allow library liaisons to send letters to every freshman inviting them to coffee at the Brewed Awakening Coffee Bar and a personalized explanation of liaison services. It also provides for an additional mailing to parents letting them know who their son's or daughter's librarian is and providing contact information.

Student Initiatives

MSU Sustained Dialogue -- Student Kiah Abbey and faculty member Deidre Combs will receive $10,000 to develop an MSU Sustained Dialogue, or a place where people of multiple opinions and backgrounds can come together and discuss personal, communal and societal problems in a safe space. This will be done by hosting outdoor retreats and establish a mentorship program as well as offering retreats, events, study tours for international student leaders and meetings. MSU will join the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network, a national organization where this concept has been successful.

Conversations with Professors -- Submitted by Emily Edwards of MSU University Studies, "Conversations with Professors" will be a 75-minute small group conversation between incoming first-year students and faculty the day before classes start. The initiative received $8,250 in funding.

MSU Leadership Fellows Program -- This would launch a first-year experience focused on leadership and engagement/service learning for incoming students. Offered one day before Move-In Day and prior to fall classes, the course would offer a one-credit leadership and service learning course sponsored by University College and the MSU Leadership Fellows Program. Students would discuss theories of leadership in small groups, participate in team building, receive coaching and meet with faculty and student leaders from across campus. Proposed by Carmen McSpadden, director of the MSU Leaderships Fellows Program, it is funded for $10,000.

University Studies Sophomore Experience - This program would target sophomores with a three-credit course that will include small group sessions and a general lecture geared at engaging students and focusing individualized career plans. Funded for $9,900.

Pat Chansley,, (406) 994-4373