Issue 343: 6 / 7 / 2010

Dr. Cynthia Calhoun to Head up Initiative to Increase Retention, Graduation Rates

Dr. Cynthia B. Calhoun

Dr. Cynthia B. Calhoun

As the 2010-11 academic year approaches, Southwest is preparing to implement the Tennessee Higher Education Bill of 2010, a directive to increase student retention and graduation rates. Dr. Cynthia B. Calhoun, newly appointed executive director of Retention and Graduation, is heading up a program designed to crown Southwest’s successful recruiting measures with an equal success in retention and graduation. Dr. Calhoun’s successful experience in higher and adult education particularly fits her to lead this program. “Our future fiscal health will depend in part on how well we achieve those outcomes. I am so pleased to have Dr. Calhoun in this position and know that she will make a great difference in our students’ successful journeys to achieving their goals,” said Provost/Executive Vice President Joanne Bassett of Dr. Calhoun’s appointment. Her study of various learning modalities and venues, both formal and informal, has gained for her additional strategies and knowledge of trends and resources to better serve the community college student.

“This need for increased attention to student retention and graduation is one the college recognized early, and started working to address,” according to Dr. Calhoun. The mission of the Office of Student Retention and Graduation is to “lead the college in developing, implementing, monitoring and assessing student retention and graduation initiatives, with special emphasis directed toward … first year experience, curriculum and instruction, tutoring, mentoring, and advising,” she said.

Dr. Calhoun is a veteran of more than 30 years of teaching and honing her professional skills in the community college setting, particularly in empowering adult learners – our students – to acquire the social and academic skills to positively affect their life chances for upward mobility and success. According to Southwest President Nathan L. Essex, “The role that Dr. Calhoun has assumed as Executive Director of Retention and Graduation is absolutely critical to our capacity to improve the retention and graduation rates of a diverse group of students who face numerous challenges as they pursue their professional careers. Improving graduation and retention rates involves the entire Southwest college community – faculty, staff and administrators. We all have an important role in support of Dr. Calhoun’s efforts.”

Primary responsibilities initially include operational procedures across all units of the college. This includes integrating data to support administrative decisions for our purpose; developing and implementing strategies for departments and divisions; assessing outcomes of programs and services, and reporting that data for decision-making and to make modifications and recommendations based on the assessments. And finally, it includes reporting results on trends and best practices in retention and graduation efforts at all levels: student, college and community.

“We have tapped the Academic Support Centers as major contributors in our retention efforts and expanded the College Retention Committee for leadership assistance,” said Dr. Calhoun. “And we are looking forward to very intensive collaboration on the part of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, the Center for Faculty Development, Information Services, the Office of Planning and Analysis, and Financial and Administrative Services.” All of these areas, she emphasized, will be “keys to success” in implementing this very vital initiative of the college. “We all must be contributors to its success.”

Finally, Dr. Calhoun noted, “The full importance of this program can hardly be over-stated. Higher education across the state – in fact, across the nation – is getting critical attention from legislators and tax-payers alike. They are very results-driven, assessing our success in terms of students’ degree completion, job attainment, in addition to total enrollment.”