2008/2009 Annual Report
Strengthening the Student Experience: Focusing on Student Success
Undergraduate Retention and Success
CAS is dedicated to ensuring that our students are as successful as possible. Our most recent retention rate for freshman to sophomore year was 90.9%, and increase of .7%.
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Exceptional Students Taking Innovative Steps
A wonderfully diverse student body continues to drive our level of excellence, bringing a wealth of experiences and interests to our rich learning community. Many are taking bold and innovative steps in their scholarship and research, with impressive results.
For example, meet Joseph Clark (CAS’10). The senior from Memphis, Tenn., spent his summer researching the American Civil Rights Movement, in part because his grandfather was one of the Sons of the Confederacy. Clark has a complicated relationship with history: he understands why some people would rather not explore the past, yet he considers it an integral part of who we are.
“To become your own person, it’s necessary to know where you came from,” says Clark, who received a Greig Scholarship from the CAS Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs. “You build on what other people have left. You can’t really start from zero.”
With the help of a grant from BU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, Clark used the personal archive of Conrad Lynn, a civil rights lawyer known both for his controversial cases — he defended freedom riders and draft resisters—and as the first black graduate of Syracuse University Law School.
Task Force on the First-Year Experience
The first-year experience of entering students has long been recognized as a critical phase in a successful academic journey. In 2008/09, Dean Sapiro charged a task force consisting of students, faculty, and staff with studying current research, best practices, current programs at BU, and our potential to recommend a set of principles and goals that should frame a comprehensive CAS First Year Experience (FYE). The task force focused on four major themes: the academic experience, student academic support, student development, and co-curricular programs and student life.
After six months of study and deliberation, the Task Force produced a report that has been shared and discussed widely around the College.
- The FYE should provide integration and coherence across the various aspects of students’ lives during their first year at BU to promote their successful transition from high school and home life to full, engaged membership in the university community.
- The FYE should engage and support first-year students as they develop individually to gain the skills and character they need to be successful as Boston University students and beyond.
- The FYE should foster strong connections among students and between students and faculty as a basis providing students with a strong foundation in the BU community.
- The FYE should offer a carefully constructed assortment of academic programs and co-curricular programs that will alert students to the expectations of college-level work, teach them to make use of the resources of the college for their own intellectual growth, and develop ways to integrate the variety of their intellectual experiences while building personal and scholarly character.
- The FYE should help students to cultivate healthy ways of living, responsible involvement in social and community groups, an appreciation of diversity, and, above all, a value for the intrinsic worth of the intellectual life.
- Academic support for first-year students should focus on reinventing and expanding our advising systems. Advisors will be specially trained in first-year issues; partnerships will be developed among student services across the university so that students can easily learn about and make use of these services.
It will take some time to assemble the final plan and the resources necessary to implement it, but we have taken strong first steps to implement these recommendations. The CAS Class of 2013 will be treated to a first set of programs designed to provide fun, interesting, and provocative programs in which they will get to know faculty on an informal and constructive basis early in their days at BU. A University-wide working group will meet regularly to coordinate first-year events and programs throughout the University.
Student Programs & Leadership
Undergraduates in the College of Arts & Sciences receive countless opportunities to enrich their academic life through the Student Programs & Leadership Office. This year, new or transformed initiatives joined longstanding annual programs such as Major Choices and Spring Open Houses.
October 2008 saw the launch of the first annual College Scholars Reception, an event that celebrates the outstanding academic achievements of this select group of CAS students. Also during the fall, Dean Sapiro hosted the families of current CAS students at the annual Parents Weekend Reception, which was preceded by an illuminating faculty and student panel on the future of energy.
Dean Sapiro and Student Programs continued to foster the development of the Council of Student Leaders, soliciting the student perspective on campus matters at monthly meetings throughout the academic year. A popular “Sundaes with the Dean” event, open to all CAS students, was also instrumental in the continuing effort to build dialogue between the student body and the administration.
Under the tutelage of the Director of Programs, the CAS Dean’s Hosts and Student Government (formerly known as CAS Forum) launched an immensely successful spring social event, “A View from the Top,” held at Boston’s Top of the Hub. Tickets sold out within one hour on the first day of sales, an indication that CAS student leadership had hit upon a winner: a chic social occasion taking advantage of a great view of Boston that they will remember long after they graduate. Plans are under way to replicate the event on a larger scale in the current academic year.
A redesigned CAS student e-newsletter resulted in greater distribution among students, faculty, and staff, further solidifying it as an important means of communicating with the student body. Student Programs & Leadership continues to improve the usability and appeal of the newsletter.
Building strong community is a top priority of the work the Dean’s Office and student leadership are doing together. Our partnership is showing great success.