The Chancellor’s Student Success Work Group had four key findings, and earlier we discussed human connections and making connections with support opportunities. This time, we highlight their focus on the “substantial personal change” that our students are navigating. First year UWM students balance their desire to be increasingly independent with their need for connection and validation that they belong at UWM.
“Culture shock is the norm.” The SSWG learned that students from Milwaukee Public Schools need help preparing for their first experience at a predominantly white institution. At the same time, rural and suburban students need help preparing for a more culturally diverse learning environment than what they were used to. American Indian students need to acclimate to the level of invisibility they will experience. Students who are recent immigrants, refugees or international students are often still working to understand the United States. The common denominator is that all of our students are adapting; while they find campus to be vibrant, inclusive, and inviting, many struggle to find their place.
Some opportunities for us to explore:
- Adjust marketing and messaging. We heard from multiple students that while UWM may be the most diverse campus in Wisconsin, it was much less diverse than the city surrounding campus and often than the high school they recently attended. For those students, they felt that UWM was being disingenuous in how it was selling itself and that it was startling how often they felt isolated in classrooms as a student of color at UWM.
- Interventions for students should be integrated throughout their transition. Common Read, New Student Orientation, Panther Fest, Mission Possible, First-Year Seminars, residence hall programming and various student programs are heavily weighted toward the fall semester and could be spread across the year or scaffolded as a series.
- Examine the student transition and academic support needs during second semester. UWM currently is examining the student transition from point of admission through first day of class in the student’s second year. The finding that students were often more challenged by academic workload and courses in their second semester on campus, when compared to their first semester, supports this effort.