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Undergraduate Student Access

Part of attaining a diverse study body means increasing access to the University, particularly for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and those who belong to underrepresented minority groups. Once on campus, equity and inclusion require that students from all backgrounds have access to the rich opportunities on offer in LSA, both on and off campus. We will use three broad, interconnected strategies to improve access for diverse students: a focus on diversity and representation in the recruitment of transfer students; programs that seek to help “level the playing” by addressing the “digital divide,” increasing the number of need-based scholarships, increasing access to internships and career opportunities; and improving the diversity of student recruitment through outreach and attention to pre-college pipelines. 

Recruit, Retain, and Support Transfer Students

LSA has identified recruiting and retaining a diverse body of transfer students as one of its major DEI goals.  We believe that increased attention to diversifying the transfer applicant pool with respect to measures such as URM status, lower socioeconomic status, first gen status, community college students, and veterans will make a difference in terms of access to a University of Michigan education. To date, we have hired a transfer student initiatives manager in the LSA Office of Student Recruitment; established two specialized transfer student advising positions in the Newnan Center, one for domestic students, the other for international students; established a transfer student recruitment working group with representatives from the LSA faculty, the Offices of University Admissions and Enrollment Management, and Student Life; continued to make connections with advisors and others at community colleges; and begun to craft an LSA-specific strategy of recruitment, retention, and support.

This strategy will involve supporting transfer students from the beginning of their exploration, through the application process and transition into LSA, and on to their successful completion of their chosen LSA degree. This effort, led by the transfer student initiatives manager, will involve increased recruitment activity at both in-state and out-of-state community colleges, increased financial support from LSA for transfer students, collaboration with LSA departments to improve the evaluation of transfer credits, and increased programming to help transfer students make a successful transition.

Continue our commitment to recruiting community college students.

Transfer students are already a diverse part of our student body. They are both in-state and out-of-state students; they come from both four-year and two-year institutions; and our population includes international transfer students, as well. Strategic DEI thinking in this area allows us to do a better job in meeting current needs while crafting targeted, careful plans to use recruitment and retention as a vehicle for further diversification at scale. We also want to cultivate an additional commitment to recruiting and retaining Native American students and working with tribal colleges, which is consistent with the Native Student Initiative in the University-Wide DEI Plan.

Acknowledge – and build on – the work that has already been done.

These programs include the Office of New Student Program’s Transfer Connections and their Transfer Orientation team; the Central Student Government’s Transfer Student Resource Commission; the Transfer to Michigan (TR2M) collaborative group of admissions and recruiting, orientation, financial aid, and other interested partners; and the Transfer Year Experience in housing to develop a cohesive program of support for transfer students. The Office of New Student Programs is also exploring the establishment of a voluntary two-day orientation for community college transfer students, as well as a follow-up orientation program offered after the beginning of the semester.

It is important to acknowledge the work that has already been done in this area, both inside LSA and beyond. We also want to build on these initiatives wherever possible. Three of these—two with the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and one within the Sweetland Center for Writing (SCW)—are particularly noteworthy in terms of generating a level of support for transfer students that is commensurate with what is currently available to all LSA students. We have launched two new programs aimed at leveraging UROP to enhance our receptiveness to transfer students.

The Changing Gears Program targets newly admitted transfer students as well as current U-M students in their junior year who are in academic transition (for example, changing to a STEM major), while the Community College Summer Research Fellowship Program (CCSRF) targets promising students from Michigan Community Colleges. The former provides academic year research opportunities while the latter provides a summer research experience. Both programs have been successful in recruiting an unusually diverse pool of students (39% and 54% URM, respectively; 51% and 72% first-generation), and anecdotally both programs appear to have a significant impact on the outcomes of participants. As we accumulate more data, we are looking into quantitative metrics for measuring our competence at recruiting and retaining students who might be “at-risk” in terms of individual success.

These UROP-based programs are dedicated to providing transfer students with the quality of research experiences that we know leads to student achievement. The staff at the Sweetland Center for Writing have been exploring parallel ways for addressing student writing. This exploration began with the discovery that “U-M transfer students performed significantly less well than their continuing peers” in courses that fulfill the College’s Upper-Level Writing Requirement. While many transfer students manage well and do not need special interventions, others face distinctive writing challenges for which we can develop programmatic initiatives (Gere,, 2017).

The SCW launched a study that analyzed institutional data on the demographics and course grades of the 1,656 transfer students who entered U-M during the 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 academic years, followed by surveys in fall 2011 and winter 2012, and in-depth interviews with 15 selected students. They used their findings to create a new one-credit workshop (Writing 350: Excelling in Upper-Level Writing) to be taken concurrently with classes for the Upper Level Writing Requirement. This initial study and workshop was augmented by a second effort using semi-structured interviews in 2014–2015, which has yielded additional insight and nuance.

Recruiting and supporting more transfer students will necessarily change the College.

We are working to understand the particular needs of all transfer students, especially those from community colleges. Higher education researchers have long used terms such as “transfer shock” (a generally temporary dip in GPA immediately after transferring) and “transfer stigma” (the perception that transfer students are less well prepared) to describe the experiences of students who transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions such as Michigan. We need to find creative ways to combat both of these phenomena.

We are therefore recommending the launch of an LSA-wide, department-based discussions with the goal of creating departmental transfer-friendly cultures. This could include hosting events for transfer students and making transfer students more visible as part of their undergraduate populations.

The success of our transfer initiative necessitates efforts to provide clear and transparent transfer policy statements that let prospective students know precisely what credits will transfer and how they will count towards their intended major and degree. Part of this effort will require departments to review, evaluate, and create pathways for transfer students within their majors. Another part of this effort may require more academic departments and units to reach out to state community colleges and assist in the development of new courses that will not only transfer easily, but also provide the necessary prerequisite coursework to continue successfully at Michigan.

Current transfer students who reviewed drafts of this section of the DEI plan wanted to see an increase of attention not only to recruiting and admitting transfer students, but also to our commitment to their success once here. We enthusiastically endorse this vision. Suggestions included expanding the Transfer Connections program so that more transfer students can have mentors, and considering the feasibility of making all members of the Transfer Orientation Team students who have successfully completed the transfer and acclimation process, with a “representative number” having come from community colleges.

Address the Digital Divide as a Recruitment and Access Issue

The “digital divide” helps to conceptualize the way that differential, unequal access to new technologies can work to shape opportunities and outcomes on a college campus. Not having access to an individual laptop is arguably a marker of this divide at Michigan. To further test and address this assumption in winter 2015, the LSA Dean’s Office and the Provost’s Office co-sponsored a pilot laptop loan program for a selected group of admitted LSA students with the lowest socioeconomic status. This was an attempt to address the digital divide for low SES students, help recruit them to LSA, build a relationship for them with the College, and retain them through graduation.

Continue the laptop loan program for FY2017, partnering more closely with the Office of Enrollment Management.

We will also explore the possibility of extending the laptop loan program to transfer students. The ADVANCE team surveyed students who accepted and declined the computers to learn more about their perceptions of the program, and reasons for why they participated or not. The students’ self-assessment is uniformly (4.83 on a 5-point Likert scale) in agreement that the laptop has had a positive impact on their studies. Interestingly, the students accepting the loaner computer reported significantly more use of a computer in class (71% vs. 39%) and elsewhere on campus (97% vs. 79%) in comparison with the control group who declined the computer. To the extent that technology is important to student success, this validates the student self-assessment. Beyond the quantitative measures, the open-ended responses are quite compelling. For example:

My family, particularly my dad, was quietly stressing out very much for not being able to provide a laptop that would be able to run all the required programs for college. Before, I was using a couple of years old Chromebook that would constantly crash during class if it was running too many processes at once. I'm ever so grateful for this, and it truly lifted a lot of burdens off of my shoulders and my family's. It honestly helped with my studies, and I was sincerely able to accomplish so much more with this. Thank you.

Although we selected students based on SES, it was our hope that, given the correlation between SES and race, this program might have a selective impact on campus racial and ethnic diversity. This is in fact the case: 41% of the students offered the computer and 53% of those accepting the computer identified as URM. We will continue to follow these students, both with periodic surveys and/or focus groups and also with quantitative measures of success (GPA, retention) as metrics to judge the success of this program.

LSA Scholarships

Plan for growth in size and level of engagement in the Kessler Presidential Scholars program.

They come from diverse demographic and geographic backgrounds but all have significant financial need. Scholarships for incoming first-year students continue to promote access for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. These awards displace loan debt and help close the unmet need gap.

In the current capital campaign, we have set a $150 million goal for scholarships. While we are proud of our past success in this arena, we continue to look for ways of doing better. Planning for the growth of the Kessler Presidential Scholars is part of this goal. Beyond meeting that financial need, we also aspire to build a stronger Kessler community.

Raise sufficient scholarship funding.

Ensure that all LSA students have the resources necessary to pursue experiential learning in study abroad programs, internships, and research opportunities, regardless of financial need.

The fall/winter scholarships (formerly called current student scholarships) also reduce loan debt and unmet need for currently enrolled LSA students. Additionally, we offer Global Experience Scholarships for LSA students with need who are participating in a CGIS study abroad program, and LSA Internship Scholarships for LSA students with need who will participate in a summer domestic or international internship.

We want to work to ensure that all students have access to these opportunities. We launched the new spring/summer scholarship program in 2015, serving students who need one or two courses to graduate and lack the funding to do so. Additionally, low SES students who have committed to an off-campus lease for 12 months now have a better funding option to enroll for spring/summer terms. These terms are not required and thus are not fully funded for students with need. The scholarships also open opportunities for students with need to participate in spring/summer programs that were financially out of reach before, including the New England Literature Program, U-M Biological Station, Camp Davis, and Semester in Detroit, among other high-impact learning opportunities that take place beyond the boundaries of the Ann Arbor campus.

Expand the Passport Scholarship.

Passports are a precondition of world travel and a marker of global citizenship. We want all LSA students to have study and work abroad as an aspiration, if not also an expectation. In winter 2016, the LSA Scholarship Office partnered with CGIS and the Comprehensive Studies Program to acquire passports for 25 students in the Summer Bridge Program. For 2016-17, the program funded passports for 69 students (in Bridge and Bridge Summer Plus). For 2017-18, we plan to expand and include all incoming freshman students on an LSA four-year scholarship (approximately 100-120 students), along with students in Bridge and Bridge Summer Plus.  

The LSA Opportunity Hub as a Driver of Access, Equity, and Inclusion

Invest in the future success of LSA students by building the LSA Opportunity Hub with DEI Principles.

The LSA Opportunity Hub is a College initiative dedicated to pairing the broad and valuable skills of a liberal arts education with real-life experience in a variety of internship placements, strategic advising and career preparation, and the benefit of connecting with employers and LSA alumni from across the United States and throughout the world. The goal is to help students more fully explore their interests and passions, and to give them an even greater advantage to thrive after graduation in work and in life.

Our growing LSA Opportunity Network centers on connecting students with employers offering internships specifically geared toward the liberal arts skill set. Students are offered the opportunity to gain international work experience through LSA Global Opportunities. We are committed to providing students with the support they need to pursue these experiences and get the most out of them. With our campus partners, we strive to host employers who can share information about internships and career opportunities. This includes representatives from Fortune 500 companies, tech startups, leading nonprofits, media outlets, and more.

It is fortuitous that this period of University-wide strategic planning for diversity, equity, and inclusion coincides with LSA’s greater engagement with making internships and career development opportunities more available to more of our students.

Getting students to campus and building critical mass in key demographics is crucial. Equally important is to prepare students for what comes next: the first job and the long career. Over the next five years, the College will invest millions in the future success of its students by building on the success of the LSA Opportunity Hub. These efforts are well under way.

In 2015, over 1,000 internship positions were offered to LSA students across a wide variety of fields, and the LSA International Internship Program placed 130 students in 19 countries around the world. Many of these opportunities were provided by LSA alumni, and because of their generous financial support, 250 LSA students with financial need were awarded over $540,000 to support them during their summer internships in the United States and abroad. In the coming years, we will continue to expand our impact, and we plan to award $1 million in internship scholarships in 2016.

In 2015, the program began to strategically develop employer relationships and host recruiting events as well as interview sessions in LSA with employers who had not previously had the opportunity to engage with LSA students directly through the College. We are working to expand these relationships and connect LSA students with employers and alumni through innovative uses of technology, on-campus visits, partnerships with LSA departments, and mentorship. As the profile of the Internship Program grows across the College, more LSA students and departments are recognizing the resources available to support them and help students prepare for and make the most of their internship experiences.

We already provide scholarship assistance to ensure that students with financial need are able to accept low-paying and non-paying summer internships. The LSA Internship Network has also begun to work with the Comprehensive Studies Program and with University Athletics to address the specific needs of these student populations while looking for ways to connect with transfer and nontraditional students, as well.

Build More and Better Recruitment Pipelines

Build a better profile of existing pipeline and outreach efforts.

Attempt to bring a greater degree of coordination and collaboration to this important dimension of access and inclusion for both the College and the University.

We want to use this moment of strategic planning to make sense of the inventory of pre-college outreach and recruitment programs that are sponsored by and/or receive funding from LSA.

Some of these programs, like Earth Camp, are located within academic departments (in this case Earth and Environmental Sciences); others, like Michigan Math and Science Scholars span multiple disciplines and units. The Telluride Association Sophomore Seminars (TASS) summer programs are hosted by the Telluride Association with partial funding from LSA. Student Recruitment collaborates to jointly recruit and enroll students who attend these programs.

LSA also funds programs like Women in Engineering and Science (WISE)—a joint series of initiatives and programs with the College of Engineering—and there may be others that are not necessarily on the radar of Student Recruitment. We need to make sure that students who participate are appropriately identified in the larger University recruitment database. This is especially important for programs with significant numbers of diverse students. Both Earth Camp and MMSS work with young people in the summers beginning in the 9th grade.

Preparing materials associated with the LSA DEI plan has uncovered a wide variety of needs for further information on individual programs, a better understanding of their interrelationships, and a clearer picture of which approaches are most effective. We also look forward to working with Wolverine Pathways, an innovative pipeline program launched as part of the Campuswide DEI plan that works with middle and high school students in Ypsilanti, Southfield and (after 2017) Detroit.

Explore the creation of a new position within LSA Student Recruitment to focus more attention on these efforts.

Provide better coordination with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Office of Enrollment Management. While admissions is a central function at Michigan, LSA maintains its own Office of Student Recruitment, which also houses the LSA Scholarship Office and is a good partner in efforts to further coordinate all LSA programs and initiatives, both large and small, involving potential pipeline programs.