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Putting KU Magic in Student Support

February 19, 2018

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 42 seconds

Dear students, staff, and faculty:

“Help is always given at Hogwarts, Harry, to those who ask for it.”

— Albus Dumbledore, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”

Asking for help can be hard. It can be even more challenging for students, who may not know where to turn for help, may not recognize they are at a critical moment in their studies or personal lives, or may not know the right question to ask.

We don’t have supernatural magic to solve problems at the University of Kansas, but we do have remarkable faculty and staff who are developing new and innovative student support and success programs. Across our campuses I know of several endeavors and pilot programs that offer KU students information and encouragement to succeed. Collectively these efforts complement the classroom experience, fill gaps, provide mentors, and help students navigate an intricate institution. Often they are anticipatory services that let students take positive actions to stay on track and defuse potential challenges.

Changing Our Perception of Preparation

KU students take part in a practice test session, which helps them learn skills relevant to problem solving under performance expectationsIn the School of Engineering, Dawn Shew, director of undergraduate academic services, and Associate Dean Lorin Maletsky launched a program to reset how first-year students prepare for tests. The school hosts practice test sessions on the Sunday before exams in the core courses — math, physics, chemistry — that are the foundation of their disciplines. Much like athletes and musicians become better by taking part in regular practice sessions, the students develop skills that foster material comprehension and master complex problem-solving under the time and environmental pressures of a demanding college course.

Several faculty and instructors in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences have partnered with the school to offer practice tests that cover concepts similar to those in the actual exam. Students spend the first 30 minutes of the Sunday session completing the practice exam alone. In the next 30 minutes, students form small groups to discuss their answers and methods for solving the questions. In the last 30 minutes, the proctor offers the solutions and juniors and seniors from several engineering organizations are positioned at whiteboards to offer detailed reviews of test question proofs for any participant who wants it.

Their work is very encouraging. Early evaluation hints that the School of Engineering is on to something big. Figures compiled by Teaching Specialist Joe Brennan for the MATH 125 and MATH 126 courses show students who took part in the practice sessions performed better on the actual test. And a recent survey shows student participants believe the program was valuable, too:

  • 85 percent of respondents consider the sessions a good use of their time
  • 87 percent of respondents say the sessions had a positive impact on their test performance.

There are additional benefits that come with the program, too. Students learn to use group work as a study tool. They build a cohort and discover individual strengths. Because the program isn’t exclusive to engineering students, they develop relationships with students from other majors.

Jayhawk Student One Stop

More centrally, the Office of Diversity & Equity is opening Jayhawk Student One Stop, a new service to aid both undergraduate and graduate students. Located in the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center, Jayhawk SOS offers all students individualized guidance that helps them navigate university policies and practices, and directs students toward campus professionals who can deliver solutions or answers.

Mauricio Gómez Montoya will lead the effort and expects to work closely with students and partners all across campus. When students don’t know how to address a challenge, Jayhawk SOS will be a place where they can talk openly about their concerns, receive advice, develop action steps, and make the campus connections to improve their situation.


In August, the School of Social Welfare launched RISE: Resilience, Inclusion, Support and Empowerment, a pilot program for their students of color. Developed by Social Welfare Professor of Practice Sydney Spears, the program works to empower undergraduate and graduate students to succeed both academically and in their careers through building campus community and offering support and mentoring.

At regular meetings, students from all three Social Welfare program locations have opportunities to connect with each other as well as with social welfare alumni-practitioners and community leaders of color. Earlier this month the RISE students took part in a daylong leadership retreat where they worked on building skills, developed communications tactics to respond to microaggressions they experience in their learning and professional environments, and gained valuable insight into best practices from alumni in the profession.

Tried and True

While these newer programs enable KU faculty and staff to deliver novel approaches to student success, we have to praise programs that have aided so many over the years. Our International Student Services office assists students with challenges particular to their distinctive experiences at KU. ISS provides individualized guidance that bridges language and cultural barriers as well as offers assistance with policy, procedures, and regulation. The Academic Advisors in the Undergraduate Advising Center and other advising offices within academic units help students explore their options and also use predictive technology to proactively reach out to students so they stay on track. The Academic Achievement and Access Center can assist students with accommodation arrangements for long-term and temporary accessibility issues. The staff also provide supplemental instruction options and guidance on learning strategies and handling personal emergencies.

KU offers these and so many other options to support students through their academic journey. And the beauty of it is that our faculty and staff are constantly assessing student needs and emerging challenges so they can respond with innovative resources.

At KU, student support is powerful. It’s giving students what they need, when they need it — sometimes before they need it. In fact, it’s more than powerful, it’s magical.



News & Notes

KU has launched the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Information from the survey will shape our work to improve retention, persistence, and graduation rates. First-year students and seniors will have from Feb. 15 to June 1 to complete the survey. For more information visit KU’s NSSE website.

“Keeping Implicit Bias in Mind” with Jerry Kang, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at UCLA, will begin at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 22, at Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont. The free professional development presentation, coordinated by the Office of Diversity & Equity, is open to the KU and Lawrence communities.

The next International Coffee Hour from International Student Services will focus on Argentina. Join the office and presenters for coffee and culture at 3 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23 in Watson Library.

The Commons and several campus partners are hosting poet, TV writer, essayist and critic Hanif Abdurraqib, for a book talk and signing “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St. Free tickets are available through The Commons.

Nominations for the KU Advisor of the Year award are open now until March 16. The award recognizes those who exemplify excellence in academic advising. Nominees must be full-time KU employees who spend at least 50% of their time on direct delivery of advising to undergraduate students.

School of Journalism and Mass Communications student DeAsia Sutgrey was selected as one of 10 emerging storytellers for Black on Campus, a program sponsored by The Nation in partnership with the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University. Black on Campus student writers develop professional skills as they document the experiences of black college students and report on issues of national consequence to a black college student audience.

Mark your calendars for Brass & Boujee, a free, music experience on Friday, Feb. 23, at the Granada, 1020 Massachusetts St. The Black History Month event, which celebrates the musical contributions of black artists, will feature the Marcus Lewis Big Band with Cuee and DJ Soul Chemist, Kemet the Phantom and Kadesh Flow, The Phantastics, and DJ Approach.

Congratulations to Professor of Musicology Paul Laird, whose book on the late American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein will soon be published. “Leonard Bernstein: Critical Lives” offers a concise look into the live and work of a cultural icon in the 100th anniversary of his birth.

The 50th anniversary of the founding of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center was recently recognized through a House resolution signing on Thursday, Feb. 1. Congratulations to all the leaders, instructors, staff and alumni who’ve been a part of this important service for the state of Kansas. 

Associate Professor Doug Ward, associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence offers a look at the future of higher education in his latest Bloom’s Sixth blog entry.

KU goes Tobacco Free in July, Get the help you need to quit tobacco, or learn more about what’s allowed (you can smoke in your personal car or truck parked on campus) and what’s not (vaping and smokeless tobacco).

Nominations for employee of the month are due March 1. Exceptional staff who receive the award receive $750, a visit from leadership in the Office of the Provost and become a candidate for Employee of the Year. Visit the Employees of the Month webpage for complete details and nomination forms.

Eligible employees will be able to apply for tuition assistance for the Summer 2018 semester between March 1 and April 6. The tuition assistance program covers tuition for one course of up to 5 credit hours. Most KU courses at either the undergraduate or post-baccalaureate level are eligible for assistance.

A grand relaunching ceremony for the newly rebranded HawkRoute logo and signage will be from noon to 1 p.m., Tuesday, April 10, in Budig Hall. HawkRoute is an accessible route that neutralizes the distinguishing hills and conventional barriers found on the KU Lawrence campus.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk,

Neeli Bendapudi

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

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