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K-State Today

August 17, 2023

SEM operational excellence update and Division of Academic Success and Student Affairs structure

Submitted by Thomas Lane

Dear K-State Community,

In the July 19 K-State Today, President Linton and Provost Taber announced several organizational changes to better align student retention and persistence efforts while strengthening the university's holistic focus on students' academic and career success and well-being. Since that announcement, important progress has been made. The K-State Office for Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering, or KAWSE, formerly in the Office of Student Success, is now reporting to Rana Johnson, vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Additionally, former Office of Student Success academic enrichment and scholar programs — Undergraduate Research, McNair Scholars and KS-LSAMP — are now overseen by Beth Powers in the Staley School of Leadership under a newly formed office of Scholar Development and Undergraduate Research.

I write today to update the university on progress being made in creating a new Division of Academic Success and Student Affairs, or DASSA, that ensures an impactful K-State experience by supporting the academic success and personal development of students inside and outside the classroom. This restructuring initiative extends beyond simply merging the programs of the Office of Student Success and the Division of Student Life. Rather, congruent with the Next-Gen K-State strategic plan draft, this initiative reflects the plan's imperative that "we must think and operate differently than we ever have before."

Why this approach and why now? Historically at K-State, there has been a perceived dividing line among staff and faculty between what is organizationally considered the "academic" and "student life" aspects of the university. This distinction certainly extends beyond K-State and is often reflected nationally in organizational structures and cultures. An understandable result of this separation is often silo-like approaches to serving students. However, for our students, this distinction is often incongruent with what they expect from their K-State experience. More closely aligning traditional student life areas with academic support programs and services can result in a more holistic approach to ensuring the increased retention, persistence and graduation of our students as called for in the Next-Gen K-State plan. Every DASSA unit will be called on to strategically identify and actualize synergies, both in the division and across the university, that better serve our students and help K-State achieve its retention, graduation and student equity gap reduction goals. It is not by accident that Academic Success is listed first in the new division's name.

Arranging these services and programs into one division, more closely aligned within the academic structure, helps K-State better connect a student to resources promoting success both in and outside the classroom. Additionally, we know student success extends beyond attaining a degree. Success also entails students developing the career-readiness skills that employers expect from our graduates and that are necessary to thrive throughout their life pursuits. Ensuring DASSA co-curricular learning outcomes align with developing career-readiness skills and support the university's general education outcomes can help provide a more integrated, seamless student experience.

One of the most critical aspects of DASSA is that as division leader, I will have a solid reporting line to the provost as well as the president. DASSA will operate under the Office of the Provost structure, and I will serve as a member of the Office of the Provost leadership team and the Deans Council while retaining a seat on the President's Cabinet. This direct organizational connection to the chief academic officer helps ensure DASSA programs and services remain steadfastly focused on supporting K-State's academic mission and facilitates collaborative work between the division and colleges and other academic units. Retaining the joint reporting line to the president and serving as a Cabinet member helps retain K-State's long-standing commitment of ensuring students, their well-being and their experience are critical considerations when making universitywide decisions.

As you review the DASSA organizational chart, I would like to note other important divisional aspects. The Next-Gen strategic plan draft includes key priorities also aligned with the Kansas Board of Regents priorities outlined in the K-State Student Success Playbook prepared by the National Institute for Student Success. These priorities call on standardizing advising protocols and technology to deliver proactive, consistent and data-informed advising across the university and aligning K-State's advising model with national best practices. To help achieve these priorities, I will be conducting a national search for an associate vice president for academic and career engagement. This key leader will help shape the strategic vision and implementation of programs supporting K-State students' academic progress and career readiness. The associate vice president for academic and career engagement will be charged with selecting a director of retention programs who will oversee programs providing students a strong foundation for success, such as K-State First and a yet-to-be-developed second-year experience program.

Reporting to the associate vice president for academic and career engagement will be an executive director for academic advising responsible for ensuring K-State provides a proactive and holistic academic advising model that helps guide students from orientation through graduation. An internal search for the executive director for academic advising will begin shortly. These two leaders will work closely and collaboratively with the academic colleges, the university advising community, Enrollment Management and others to help the university realize its advising-related goals. The offices, programs and services within DASSA's Academic and Career Engagement unit will work together to better integrate academic and career development initiatives to advance student success and post-graduation outcomes.

Another significant aspect of DASSA is the renaming of Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs, or DMSA, to Student Belonging and Inclusion. A growing body of research indicates that a student's sense of belonging on campus is not only important for student retention and persistence but also for reducing equity gaps among historically underrepresented students. This renaming also reduces confusion with the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging by placing the focus of this unit's efforts clearly on our students. Mirta Chavez will serve as the assistant vice president for student belonging and inclusion and will oversee the Office of First-generation Students, TRIO Educational Supportive Services, and our Salina campus's TRIO Upward Bound and Student Support Services alongside existing DMSA programs. This unit's mission will continue to provide leadership in building an inclusive campus climate that promotes a sense of belonging for underrepresented students while supporting their academic success and personal development.

Finally, the Office of Student Life will be renamed the Office of Student Support and Accountability to better indicate to students, faculty and staff its campus purpose of providing support to students facing personal or academic barriers while also upholding student behavioral expectations congruent with being a member of a scholarly community. This unit will be led by Andy Thompson, who will serve as assistant vice president and senior associate dean of students. Joining the Office of Student Support and Accountability will be the Honor and Integrity System, which will continue to serve its critical role in promoting and upholding academic integrity and holding students accountable for violations of the university's honor pledge.

By focusing on our students' academic and career engagement, their sense of belonging and inclusion, their holistic well-being, and how they experience and build community, the Division of Academic Success and Student Affairs intends to be a vital partner with faculty, staff, administration, alumni and community members in helping K-State achieve its goal to be the premier next-generation land-grant university. Our stated goal is to have the division in place no later than Oct. 1. I look forward to further updating the K-State community on our progress.

My best wishes for a great start to the academic year and Go 'Cats!

Thomas Lane,
Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students