Programs Tackle Retention Rates At Dominican

March 1, 2016

By Natalie Rodriguez

Jasimine Norma Watson, president of the Black Student Union and Village coach, believes that the Village program helped her remain in college.

“It helped me stay in school and it helped me feel more comfortable here,” Watson said. “The village is kind of like a big brother big sister thing…it’s good to have that example. They make you want to stay here so you can be like them, it’s comforting that someone cares about your wellbeing.”

Organizations on campus try to tackle issues that might prompt a student to drop out. A combination of factors can lead a student to feel pressured to the point of withdrawing. The lack of family support, feelings of being stigmatized on campus and/or trouble with academics can all factor into a student’s decision to continue, or not continue, their education. One of these programs is the Village. This program helps African American students succeed academically through a mentorship system. Upperclassman students called “coaches” mentor younger students in regards to academic needs and/or whatever other issues they’re going through.

According to Watson, her college experience was positive because of her mentor.

“My freshman year I had my village coach and her name was Khalisha Pullman,” Watson said. “It was awesome. She was always helping me out and I could meet with her about my financial problems, my grades or if I was just having a bad day. It felt like a family.”

According to Chief Diversity Officer, Sheila Radford-Hill, programs such as the Village can be successful in retention rates.

“I think that targeted interventions in general, if they’re well designed, can be very helpful to increase retention of students,” Radford-Hill said. “I think that the Village program gives students a sense of student efficacy, the idea that they can be good students and that they can succeed.”

Coordinator of The Village and student at Dominican, KhayLeen Wright, agrees that the program helps students stay in school.

“We are really good with retaining the students,” Wright said. “Often times, there’ll be some wanderers that don’t want to participate in the Village but, for the most part, every participant feels like they have a place here and so they want to stay. There have been a lot of success stories from students who have participated in the Village. Just from being in the Village you get internships, job opportunities and you also get to connect with alumnae.”

Along with helping the students academically, the Village offers networking opportunities such as the African American Heritage reception, which will be held on Feb. 26 from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Another group on campus that works towards helping students succeed is First in the Family. The organization is geared towards helping first generation students who typically struggle with college life more than others. Co-president Jorge Irizarry believes that organizations such as First in the Family can impact a student’s success in college.

“I believe that groups like us do make a difference in the lives of students,” Irizarry said. “It definitely helped me when I came in freshman year. It’s a good way to start meeting people and build friendships. I also believe that the experiences that are created through this, and many other organizations, have a ripple effect towards graduation. I hope others have felt the same way I feel regarding the impact of this organization and others.”

The current issue regarding government funding is only making things worse. According to the enrollment and retention rates from Fall 2015 to Spring 2016, Dominican lost 166 students. Hispanic students made up 51 percent, white students made up 34 percent and black students made up 10 percent. Out of the 74 students who completed the withdrawal process, 23 percent indicated that it was for financial reasons, 23 percent said it was for personal reasons and 19 percent said it was due to academics.

Although it is too early to tell who might be affected the most by the lack of state funds, First in the Family and the Village are trying to eliminate any other obstacles that can impact a student’s decision to stay in college.

rodrnata@my.dom.edu