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Helping Students Persevere

I firmly believe everyone should have to opportunity to receive a college degree. In fact, this belief is one of the reasons I was drawn to working at DePaul. DePaul’s mission statement  includes the following: “Originally founded for students from the greater Chicago area, and still serving them predominantly, DePaul continues its commitment to the education of first generation college students, especially those from the diverse cultural and ethnic groups in the metropolitan area.” It also goes on to say the university “seeks diversity in students’ special talents, qualities, interests, and socio-economic background.” This commitment to student success is especially important when so many students are struggling with accessing higher education.

A New York Times article, Who Gets to Graduate, published a startling statistic. Forty percent of U.S. American students who start at four-year colleges have not obtained their degree after six years.  The author goes on to state the biggest indicator of student success was their parents’ income. Researchers have found that approximately 25% of students born into the bottom half of the income distribution will obtain a bachelor’s degree by 24; whereas, 90% born into the top income quartile will complete their degree.  The Long Shadow, a study published last June, also cites research that family socioeconomic status indicates success later in life. This study followed almost 800 Baltimore first graders for 25 years. In that time, only 33 children transitioned from a low income to high-income bracket and the vast majority had not completed college degrees. You can listen to a story NPR aired on this study here.

Working at DePaul, an institution that is so focused on student access and success, is incredibly exciting. However, I often wonder what can I be doing to support the success of students who are in need? My work with the Supplemental Instruction program helps students succeed in historically difficult courses through collaborative learning. But, it is important to continue to identify new ways to help students persevere at DePaul.

Below I have highlighted two ways DePaul staff and faculty can explore new ways to support their students.


BlueStar, an online network that allows students, advisors and faculty members to communicate with each other, will be fully launched this fall. By opening the lines of communication, students will be able to receive consistent feedback and positive reinforcement regarding their academic performance. Blue Star will also allow instructors or advisors to raise flags when a student may be struggling – these concerns will then be reported to appropriate areas. This new program is very exciting, especially since The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported that early warning systems are a recommended method for decreasing the achievement gaps among minority groups.  You can watch a video on how DePaul staff and faculty have been utilizing BlueStar here.

Fall Forum on Teaching and Learning

The Annual Fall Forum on Teaching and Learning theme’s this year – Can You Teach Perseverance? – will allow DePaul staff and faculty to

  • Develop classroom strategies for helping students persevere.
  • Recognize the conditions in which different populations of students persevere as well as potential barriers to student success.
  • Identify resources at DePaul for helping students persevere

David Laude, whose work to address high attrition rates among disadvantaged students at the University of Texas Austin is highlighted in the New York Times article cited above, will be the keynote speaker.  The forum will also feature a panel including Vijay Pendakur (Director of DePaul’s Office of Multicultural Student Success), Imran Khan (Chicago Public Schools), Jacqueline Villagomez (a current DePaul student majoring in Finance), and Jesus Pando (DePaul professor in the Physics Department). If you are interested in attending the forum, please register here.

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