Delohery primed for retention position

By on February 2, 2011

Learning Center director looks to keep retention rates on the rise

This is the first semester he isn’t teaching a class in his 11 years at Quinnipiac, but Andrew Delohery is now taking on the duties of two administrative positions at the same time. Delohery was named associate vice president for retention and academic success last month, but is still continuing his duties as the director of the Learning Center.

“This semester is a transition period,” Delohery said.

Delohery began his post as director of the Learning Center in 2000, and he will continue to meet with 300-400 students this semester, he said.

“The position was created to ensure that we have a coordinated and effective response to students academically at-risk,” Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Mark Thompson said. “It is intended to help identify students who may need help as early as possible and provide assistance to them as a way to increase retention and student success.”

Delohery is the first person to hold the new vice presidential position that is dedicated to studying and increasing retention and graduation rates of the university. Retention is “a student’s continuation from the first to the second year of school,” which is one of the most common times for a student to transfer from a college, Delohery said.

“If you end up with less than a 2.0 GPA, a lot of people – either themselves or their parents – think it’s time to rethink the plan,” Delohery said. “That’s consistent across the nation.”

Delohery was the chair of the Retention and Graduation Rate Task Force last school year. The team searched for possible connections between retention and factors like rank in high school class, GPA, SAT score, race, gender, financial need, or level of financial aid. Thompson showcased some of the task force’s findings in his 2010 convocation address.

“Effective this semester, faculty teaching freshman level courses will report the names of students who miss the equivalent of one week of class and/or receive a grade of ‘D’ or ‘F’ on initial assignments to the Learning Center,” Thompson said. “Under the current early warning system, 70 percent or more of at-risk students referred are helped successfully. The problem is that only 30 percent of students that would benefit from help get referred and many students don’t get the help they need.”

In the past 11 years, Delohery has found more students are utilizing the Learning Center and are ultimately succeeding in their classes. In 2000, 660 students used the Learning Center, as opposed to more than 3,000 students last year – nearly 65 percent of the undergraduate population.

“When looking at previous early warning numbers, if a student was referred, 70 percent ended up succeeding in the class,” Delohery said. “We went from 70 percent last year to 75 percent this year. Initial indication is that we increased the students’ level of success with us.”

The task force found that low freshman GPA was one of the reasons students were leaving Quinnipiac, reinforcing the idea of directing students doing poorly in classes to the Learning Center for help.

Quinnipiac’s retention rate has been fluctuating year to year, but is currently in an upward trend, Delohery said. In his time at the university, the retention rate has been between 85 and 88 percent.

“The national average for four-year schools is 47 percent and we’re at 86 percent,” Delohery said. “We are in the running for being a selective university.”

Quinnipiac’s goal is to reach a retention rate of 90 percent, which is considered “highly selective.”

Although Delohery’s job is to “improve retention,” he acknowledged the fact that this university tries to provide the best opportunities for students and help them find their path to success, even if that path leads them away from Quinnipiac.

“Following the idea of a liberal education, how can we not say somebody might come to the realization that this place is not best serving their needs?” Delohery said.

It is his job to attempt to keep students at Quinnipiac, but Delohery said after working with students for so many years, he is still caring about the students’ best interests.

“Mr. Delohery has a long track record of providing assistance to students as former director of the Learning Center,” Thompson said. “He is sincere in his desire for students to succeed and has the expertise needed to coordinate the services of the Learning Center with other areas in Student and Academic Affairs to strengthen our ability to serve our students.”

Photo credit: Joe Pelletier

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