October 27, 2015

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Task Force to Address Retention, Student Success

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University is on a mission to develop a distinct plan of action to improve student retention and student success.

In an effort to engage faculty, staff, students, and administrators in the process, Dr. Cecil P. Staton, interim president, recently announced the formation of the 15-member 70/80 Task Force on Retention. The group is charged with progressively increasing the university’s overall retention rate to 80 percent or higher by clearly defining the academic, social, and financial factors that contribute to a better educational experience for all students, from the moment they apply for admission to graduation.

“There is probably nothing more important for our university than helping our students achieve success,” he said. “Student retention is a good measure of our progress in this regard. Our aspiration as a university should be to move the needle on retention. I am confident this community — faculty, staff, and students — can find ways to increase our retention rate. The VSU 70/80 Task Force on Retention is a visible sign of our commitment to student achievement on our campus. They have my full confidence and support.”

When he addressed the campus community during the annual convocation in August, Staton said that 2015-2016 must be the year that the university renews its commitment to improving student retention and student success, issues of concern for institutions of higher education across the nation and around the world. He said everyone on campus, regardless of whether they work behind the scenes or have direct contact with the students who live and learn at VSU, bears responsibility for providing all students with the support they need to achieve their goals.

“The 70/80 Task Force on Retention has just begun its work, and the members are very aware that the issue of student retention is complex and multi-faceted,” said Dr. Travis York, an assistant professor in VSU’s Higher Education Leadership Program who serves as chairman of the task force. “Our first goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the many successful programs and initiatives already occurring on campus to learn about how those successes have been developed. Simultaneously, the task force is coordinating information from students, staff, faculty, and institutional research to increase our understanding of the root issues contributing to our students' decisions to leave our campus community. We are, and will be, seeking input from many campus constituents in this process. Our goal is to then share these insights from this initial phase with the campus community as we begin to formulate short- and long-term strategies to address those issues. This process includes efforts to understand pressures that our students face in gaining access to our institution, funding their educational journeys, cultivating their sense of belonging within our academic community, and progressing through their chosen programs of study.

“Ultimately, we hope to engender widespread conversation and concerted efforts to actualize our institution’s mission to assist students in molding their futures in creative, conscious, and caring fashion while preparing them to be lifelong learners — in other words, being student-centered in every facet of our operation. We believe by focusing our efforts on increasing student success while attending to the primary causes of student attrition we will be able to capitalize on the greatest strengths of our institution.”

Members of the 70/80 Task Force on Retention are Abigail Edwards, a 2015 Bachelor of Science in Education, middle grades education, graduate who is currently pursuing a Master of Education in instructional technology; Dr. Alicia Roberson, director of Centralized Advising; Brian Roberts, assistant director of Student Life; Carla Jordan, assistant director of Career Opportunities in charge of the Employer Relations and Experiential Learning Team; Dr. Chere Peguesse, director of the Student Success Center; Dr. Christy Yates, director of Operations and Special Projects for the Division of Finance and Administration; John Crawford, vice president of University Advancement and chief executive officer of VSU Foundation Inc.; Tee Mitchell, director of Admissions; Dr. Kimberly Tanner, director of the Access Office; Sage Archer, director and commencement coordinator with Event Services; Dr. Shani Wilfred, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice; Shannon McGee, director of Auxiliary Services; Thomas Macera, head softball coach; Barrie Fitzgerald, interim director of Institutional Research; and York.

Contact Dr. Travis York at (229) 249-4851 or ttyork@valdosta.edu to learn more.

On the Web:


Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities. 

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals: 

Goal 1: Recruit, retain, and graduate a quality, diverse student population and prepare students for roles as leaders in a global society.

Goal 3: Promote student, employee, alumni, retiree, and community engagement in our mission.

Goal 4: Foster an environment of creativity and scholarship.

Goal 5: Develop and enhance Valdosta State’s human and physical resources.

Visit http://www.valdosta.edu/administration/planning/strategic-plan.php to learn more.