Southeastern Community College scored well on the 2012 Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE). Students gave high marks to SCC for making early connections with students and helping students achieve a clear academic plan and pathway.
The SENSE survey is administered directly to community college students and helps institutions assess quality in education, focus on good educational practice, and identify areas in which they can improve programs and services for students.
SCC Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. David Schachtsiek says that SCC ranks well in many of the categories listed on the survey when compared to similarly sized institutions. “The SENSE Survey is a great way the college can measure how our students feel about their experience. This feedback helps us know where and how to improve.”
Research shows that the more actively engaged new students are—with college faculty and staff, with other students, and with the subject matter—the more likely they are to learn and to achieve their academic goals.
Dr. Tim Ahern, Dean of Arts and Sciences at SCC, says that SCC is committed to giving students a quality education. “This shows that our students feel connected and are happy about how faculty and staff help them both in and outside of the classroom.”
On the survey, SCC students were asked to describe something they struggled with early on in their college experiences. Many felt discouraged or thought about dropping out. Their reasons for overcoming these feelings included a strong, early connection to someone at SCC and having a clear academic plan for completion.
Erin Mafra, SCC’s Retention Advisor of TRIO Student Support Services (SSS), says TRIO is specifically designed to help students navigate college in order to be successful.
Mafra explains that when students are accepted into the TRIO program, TRIO staff makes sure they take the right classes in order to achieve their educational goals.
“Some students come in and know exactly what classes they want to take while others want more guidance; it really becomes an individualized experience which, in turn, is empowering for the student.”
According to SENSE, students are more likely to succeed if they not only are advised about what courses to take, but also are helped to set academic goals and to create a plan for achieving them.
The survey explains that when a student, with knowledgeable assistance, creates a road map—one that shows where he or she is headed, what academic path to follow, and how long it will take to reach the end goal—that student has a critical tool for staying on track.
Mafra says that one unique component of TRIO is the Jump Start summer orientation. This is held for all new program participants before fall classes commence. This orientation is used not only as a way for students to become more familiar with the program, but also to become more comfortable with the SCC campus and adjust to life as a new college student.
“This is an excellent way for students to build relationships and camaraderie with their fellow students,” says Mafra.
SCC not only makes early connections with Arts & Science students, but also with students enrolled in Career and Technical Education programs (CTE) at SCC.
SCC Office Administration Instructor Trisha Hopper says one of the key factors of the CTE programs is that they all work with an advisory board. This helps ensure that the program is producing graduates with the skills that fit the needs of local employers.
“I get to know my students quite well—the better I understand their perspectives, the better I can help them. I try to help them realize that someday, they may want more out of a career than they want right now,” explains Hopper.
Hopper says that although students can easily register for classes online, they are always encouraged to work closely with an enrollment specialist and the program instructors to make sure they stay on target for an expected graduation date so they can begin their careers.
“When students come to me about classes, we first discuss their educational and career goals. This helps them see the big picture and how their class choices will affect them in the long run,” says Hopper.
For more information about the SENSE survey, please contact Jeff Ebbing at firstname.lastname@example.org or 219-208-5060.