Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Power of Personal Connections

A recent study indicates that something as simple as a student being an invited guest into a faculty or staff member's home can have a huge, positive impact on that student's entire college experience.

It's so simple. People matter more than programs.

The research was conducted over the past 10 years by sociologists Dan Chambliss of Hamilton College and Christopher Takacs of the University of Chicago. They wanted to learn what had the greatest effects on students' college experiences, what interventions led to student retention and success.

What they did was track a randomly selected cohort of Hamilton College students beginning in 2001, interviewing them every year in school and each year after they graduated, seeking to know what made the difference in their retention decisions and what things didn't matter.

They discovered that as student motivation fluctuates up and down, a key to motivating students is face-to-face contact - and it doesn't take much to make a big impact on a student's career.

In their interviews, the researchers were amazed how students and alumni could point to a single one-on-one conversation with a faculty member that made a difference.

It's a low-cost intervention that makes a huge impact on students. Being the right person at the right time for a student seems to have a disproportionate impact on their success and retention rates.

At LETU, we have the opportunity to improve student retention, to be the right person to listen, speak encouragement and provide motivation in a student's life when they need it. People, not programs, motivate students to stay with their LETU studies and to graduate. It is those personal connections that are crucial for students to succeed.

Results of this study will be included in a forthcoming book, "How College Works."  The authors' research was reported by Nick Pandolfo for MCT News Service in a recent issue of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) newsletter.