From the day Dr. Michelle Rosemond first became the executive director of Retention Initiatives and Campuswide Advising at IU South Bend, student success has been of her primary concern. When she noticed that members of historically underserved communities were facing difficulties on campus, then, Rosemond looked to places at Indiana University where staff have successfully addressed such challenges.
That search led her to the 21st Century Scholars Program at IU Bloomington, a unit in the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA) and serves over 3,000 scholars from low-income backgrounds from across the state of Indiana. Today, the connection has developed into a mentoring relationship between the campuses as staff members of IU Bloomington’s 21st Century Scholars Program have worked to advise their IU South Bend colleagues on holistically improving student outcomes.
“It’s a 21st Century education designed for a 21st Century Scholar, and that’s really what this partnership has been about,” Rosemond said.
The partnership between the campuses began when Rosemond reached out to Mr. Vincent Isom, director of the IU Bloomington 21st Century Scholars Program and co-director of the Thomas I. Atkins Living Learning Center, to see whether his staff would be interested in advising the IU South Bend program. In a series of trainings throughout late 2018 and expanding into this year, Isom and his Lead Advisor, Jenifer Berry, met with their colleagues at IU South Bend to discuss strategies that have helped the Bloomington program retain and graduate scholars on time.
By sharing high impact practices in advising, maintaining lines of communication, and ensuring that scholars have all the information they need to succeed, Isom and his staff aim to expand the success they have achieved to other IU campuses.
"While the communities we serve may be different, all of Indiana University's campuses are fundamentally dedicated to providing avenues to knowledge and success for all students,” said James C. Wimbush, vice president for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, dean of The University Graduate School, and Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership. “The partnership between the 21st Century Scholars Programs of IU Bloomington and IU South Bend is a remarkable testament to this shared vision, making clear that, when it comes to serving all of the students who call our campuses home, we truly are one IU."
By implementing the lessons learned from Isom’s team, IU South Bend’s 21st Century Scholars Program looks to recreate the successes gained on the Bloomington campus. For example, in 2007-2008 the first year student cohort was 349; whereas, 831 scholars now comprise the first year cohort in 2017-2018. This increase is due to a Bloomington campus partnership between 21st Century Scholars Program, OVPDEMA, IU Admissions Office, and the Scholarships Office. In 2017, IU Bloomington’s 21st Century Scholars Program ranked second for graduating scholars on time, at a rate that is more than double the state average. Isom credits the graduation rates to a robust and intentional system of advising and communicating with scholars throughout their college experience. In addition, strategic initiatives that provide targeted assistance to students in danger of losing their scholarships have helped strengthen student retention and increase graduation. Through the promotion of campus engagement through overseas study opportunities, student organizations such as the 21st Century Scholars Leadership Corps, and involvement in career development programming, students are encouraged to take full advantage of the academic, cultural, and professional development offerings of IU.
In the series of trainings offered, Isom and his team have focused on holistic efforts to replicate this success at IU South Bend. Foremost among these factors is tailoring student advising, a central pillar of the 21st Century Scholars Program, to the unique needs of IU South Bend students, who attend a predominantly commuter campus. Isom’s trainings have also focused on maintaining frequent communication with scholars using updated web and email materials, as well as making sure that scholars are equipped with the information needed to maintain their scholarships.
Looking to the future, Isom and Rosemond plan to continue the trainings between the two campuses. Rosemond also hopes to present initial findings from her campus from the collaboration at the upcoming H. Kent Weldon Conference for Higher Education in April 2019.
According to Isom, collaborating with IU South Bend has been a valuable opportunity to reflect on the success of the 21st Century Scholars Program, as well as to build cross-campus relationships that ensure the continued success for generations of scholars to come.
“It’s always wonderful to partner with others. To be able to share ideas by presenting our best practices we are also able to polish and hone our own skillsets. This helps to validate our approach and the 21st Century Scholars Program itself,” Isom said.