An innovative first-term advising program at Williston State College in North Dakota was honored by the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance) at its annual meeting last Thursday in Salt Lake City.
Kaylyn Bondy, vice president for student affairs at WSC, accepted the Bernice Joseph Award, given annually by the Alliance for the best academic-leadership resource submitted this past year to its online resource known as the Academic Leaders Toolkit. This peer-reviewed repository is hosted by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), the Colorado-based regional higher education agency where the Alliance (whose members are chief academic leaders at Western U.S. two-year-colleges) is based.
“I am very encouraged to see this program honored with the Bernice Joseph Award,” says Alliance chair Clifton Sanders, provost for academic affairs at Salt Lake Community College. “It showcases the value our Alliance provides by turning a spotlight on innovations that improve community and technical colleges’ ability to serve students and communities.”
The program came about in early 2017 as WSC sought to improve new student engagement and retention. It launched a program that encouraged faculty and staff to come forward as advisors, trained them, and assigned them to students with the goal of better orienting students to WSC through materials and intentional touchpoints throughout a student’s first term.
In two years, the program has helped WSC lessen the timespan between matriculation and enrollment, and has led to measurable improvements in student retention rates.
In receiving this award, WSC’s program gains broad recognition among the two-year-college chief academic officers who represents Alliance member institutions located in the WICHE region encompassing 16 state and territorial members. The award has been given annually by the Alliance since 2013, and it was renamed recently to honor Bernice Joseph, an influential University of Alaska educator who passed away in 2014.