MU adopts new program to combat dropouts

Based on some disconcerting studies, a new pilot program is coming to Marquette to better identify and assist students at risk of dropping out.

MAP-Works, which stands for Making Achievement Possible, uses a set of surveys to gauge how first-year students are socially, emotionally and academically coping with the transition to college. Faculty at Ball State University first developed the program.

Anne Deahl, associate vice provost for academic support programs and retention, is one of the lead organizers of the implementation of MAP-Works at Marquette.

“While our first-year retention is very good at Marquette, we want to ensure that students receive the assistance they need at the right time,” Deahl said.

Deahl said there hasn’t been a recent dramatic drop-off in student retention that spurred the use of MAP-Works, but recent studies suggested Marquette should adopt an “Early-Alert” system.

“Waiting for mid-terms is too late to realize a student needs help,” Deahl said.

Deahl said for the pilot run, the survey would be sent to 500 randomly selected freshmen around the third week of classes. The second “check-up” survey would be administered in November just prior to advising and registration for spring classes.

“If we find the pilot successful, we would anticipate running the program each year for all new students,” Deahl said.

While this is a new program, MAP-Works is now owned and operated by Educational Benchmarking Inc., a national firm that offers assessments and analysis for institutions of higher education.

According to EBI’s website, the initial transition-to-college survey would ask questions in two areas: academics and student development.

Academic questions would treat how students judge their ability to learn, manage time and study.

Student development questions would ask about student involvement, sense of belonging, homesickness, and level of interaction with roommates and neighbors.

After taking the survey, students are immediately informed of their results and how they compare with other students. Students who are deemed at some risk or showed signs of having a difficult time adjusting are then put in contact with various resources.

James McMahon, assistant vice president and dean of residence life, has also worked on brining the MAP-Works program to Marquette and putting students in communication with aid.

McMahon said the purpose of the program is to connect students to helpful offices or personnel.

“Be it hall directors and resident assistants, the counseling center or academic advisors, students who need help will find there are an incredible amount of resources available to help them out.” McMahon said.

Other universities have used the MAP-Works program, including Iowa State University, St. Louis University and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, McMahon said.

Don Whalen, a research analyst in residence halls at Iowa State University, saw how MAP-Works could positively influence students and improve retention.

“We’ve seen a small increase in retention, and we would like to think it’s due to MAP-Works,” Whalen said. “Besides that, I’ve noticed how students that participate in the surveys and receive help have done much better academically and socially that those who chose not to.”