Pfeiffer Focused on Student Success
Beginning this fall, Pfeiffer University’s Wick Sharp Student Success Center has taken several steps to increase retention rates. Dr. Chip Palmer ’09, the Director of Student Support and Academic Success, describes the measures as “an early intervention with resources that are more targeted to specific student groups.”
Pfeiffer’s student-athletes, who can lose their eligibility to play if their GPA drops below 2.0, are among these groups. They can now devote some of their required study hall hours to working with tutors or to getting assistance in the Writing Center.
“Instead of just having them sit in a study hall without someone there to help them with a higher level math or accounting course, they’re using that time to work with a nationally certified peer tutor so that they can get their questions answered and learn and master skills,” Palmer said. “This helps us all work together to intervene as necessary to help a student be successful.”
Another population that Pfeiffer sometimes struggles to retain are students with a low Expected Family Contribution, an index number that’s used to determine eligibility for federal student aid.
“Some of these students come to college without any technology, without a computer, without an iPad,” Palmer said. “That’s a problem because a lot of our courses use e-textbooks or have homework assignments and discussion boards online. We don’t want someone to do poorly in a course just because part of their course is online.”
To help these students with their technology needs (and increase the likelihood of keeping them in school), the center has “partnered with our library on campus to make sure that we have technology that students can check out as they need it,” Palmer said.
The University’s Student Success Center is tailoring resources for student success to each of its three campuses. Some illustrative examples: Most students at Pfeiffer’s campus in Charlotte, N.C. take master’s-level classes online, so an online writing consultant is now available to help support them.
Lots of writing assignments are required of students pursuing a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at Pfeiffer’s Center for Health Sciences in Albemarle, N.C. So, Palmer leads workshops in formatting and citing sources that align with APA Style guidelines.
Tutors in such subjects as pharmacology and microbiology are being made available to students pursuing a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies. PA students can review material they need to master for exams through an online tool called Rosh Review.
Originally established with a US Department of Education Title III grant in the 1980s, the Wick Sharp Student Success Center initially launched as the Learning Resource Center and was later renamed the Wick Sharp Learning Center. It has always offered programs to reinforce basic skills and supplement classroom instruction. Once the Title III funding was exhausted in 1991, a group of Pfeiffer Junior College alumni established an endowment, named in memory of Dr. Wick Sharp, president of PJC from 1933-1943, to support the center in perpetuity. The alumni group wished to realize Dr. Sharp’s dreams of providing “just a little bit of help and encouragement so that students may achieve academic success for lifelong learning.”
Today, the center has evolved, and services are designed to help students ease the transition to college life and manage the demands of a university curriculum. In addition, accessibility services are offered to all students in need.
Pfeiffer has also updated its “branding surrounding success,” Palmer said. The Wick Sharp Learning Center changed its name this year to the Wick Sharp Student Success Center “to increase collaboration across the University and proactively find ways to help students be successful.” Collaborative efforts include partnerships with faculty, staff, and coaches who are encouraged to refer students to the center. “We want to ensure education is accessible to all students,” Palmer said. “Taking the idea of ‘If you invest in Pfeiffer, Pfeiffer is investing in you,’ we have made intentional connections across the university at all campuses with our dedication to success.”