University wins first place for student-retention program


Garalyn Heystek. Courtesy WMU

A pair of staff members at a university in the region have won a first-place award from a regional association of deans for their strategy to help retain business students on academic probation.

Geralyn Heystek, director of the Western Michigan University Haworth College of Business career center, and Chris Robinson, assistant director of academic advising at the college, were honored for developing WMU’s Phoenix Program.

Business education

The award was given as part of the 2014 Innovation in Business Education program by the MidAmerican Business Deans Association.

The award program is designed to stimulate innovation in business education by recognizing creative strategies or programs that are used to improve education and the management of resources.

Business schools that are members of the association can apply through their dean’s office for a chance to win a typical first-place cash award of $1,000 upon addressing their program’s uniqueness, benefits and ability to transfer to other institutions. Second- and third-place winners are usually awarded $750 and $500.

Each submission is evaluated by an independent committee of business deans based on creativity, content and transferability criteria.

Phoenix Program

By monitoring and following up with students on academic probation, Heystek said one of the main benefits of the Phoenix Program is student retention at the university.

“Students who took the academic recovery course were significantly more likely to get back into good standing or stay at the university compared to those who did not take the academic recovery course,” Heystek said.

Recognizing a need for services at the business college, Robinson said her involvement in the project was driven by a desire to help support academically at-risk students.

“It was the right thing to do, to develop programming to help our college of business students who had potential to succeed if given additional support,” Robinson said.

Heystek and Robinson also helped establish space in the library known as the Bronco Study Zone for students working on required study hours.

The Phoenix Program continues to expand this fall as the Bronco Study Zone launches and additional strategies are added to the initiative: a pre-business mentor program; three new higher education and student affairs interns; an increased number of college success courses offered in the spring semester; and support programming for at-risk freshmen identified through metrics in a College of Arts and Sciences success survey.

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