The Student Success Committee has undertaken a three-year process to better understand the Reed student experience from the students’ perspective and how that experience influences their success at and beyond Reed. Since January 2018, the Committee has been working with Keeling & Associates, LLC (K&A) to engage in data collection and analysis and to document, assess, and understand those perspectives. K&A has worked closely with the Committee through a number of project steps:
- Preliminary background research, including a review of pertinent documents and data (among which were transcripts of interviews undertaken earlier by the Committee)
- Structured, reflective, and deliberative interviews with students, faculty, staff, and administrators during two initial campus visits January 25–26 and March 22–23, 2018
- Review of findings and formulation of themes from those interviews with the Committee, and structured conversations with groups of students, faculty, and staff about the findings and themes, during a third visit September 10–11, 2018
- Strategic conversations with College leaders and an extended planning session with the Committee to translate the highest priority themes into draft goals, objectives, and activities during a fourth visit October 25–26, 2018
Through a comprehensive process of community engagement and reflection, the Student Success Committee concluded that, in order to take full advantage of Reed’s rigorous academic program, students must: 1) feel welcome and valued at Reed, that they belong to and deserve to be included in Reed’s academic community, 2) embrace connections with others who share common intellectual and personal interests, as well as those with different perspectives than their own, 3) make their own health and well-being a priority, and 4) develop the capacity to flourish in a challenging intellectual environment.
These overarching themes emerged from the analysis of narrative data collected and reviewed by the Committee:
- Students experience Reed’s campus culture and learning environment as excessively demanding, stressful, competitive, ambiguous, and overwhelming; many feel anxiety, unworthiness, and self-doubt, and they look to one another—not to Reed—for support.
- Diversity, inclusion, and equity continue to be challenges at Reed. Students do not feel adequately prepared with the knowledge and skills to learn and live among a diverse campus population and later to live and work in a diverse and multicultural society; many do not experience Reed as an inclusive campus.
- Many students have an extraordinary academic experience at Reed, the most valued element of which is close engagement with members of the faculty, however, not all students establish these transformative student/faculty relationships. Students often feel that they do not receive sufficient guidance in building the skills necessary to meet expectations as they advance through Reed’s academic program. The quality of advising is inconsistent; not all students are provided with critical guidance at key moments in their Reed careers. Students desire more opportunity and flexibility to explore their own intellectual and creative passions earlier in their Reed careers.
- In students’ experience, the balance between individual work, competition, and intellectual development, on the one hand, and collaboration, community, and health and well-being, on the other, tilts away from collaboration, community, and health and well-being; many do not feel a connection or a sense of belonging at Reed and do not feel able to invest in more holistic ways of knowing and being.
- At Reed, students live and study in a social, cultural, intellectual, and developmental “bubble” that defines a particular place and time in their lives; they struggle to navigate the transition into Reed, many do not establish connections to the Portland community or any wider communities (academic, cultural, or professional) while at Reed, and many do not feel prepared for the demands of the world after graduation.
- Reed does not know itself deeply or well; the college’s limited understanding of students’ experience derives not from a lack of concern for student well-being, but from the absence of systematic ways of collecting, sharing, and responding to data in all of its forms.
In response to some of the findings and themes—especially regarding students’ health and well-being—the College also requested K&A’s assistance in conducting a comprehensive review of Student Health and Counseling Services. K&A examined documents and data and facilitated interviews and activities to support and advance the review during their September visit; based on an analysis of all information and data collected, K&A developed conclusions and recommendations that were submitted to the vice president for Student Services and discussed on campus in October. Those recommendations have been integrated as a goal in this plan.
Following a period of iterative writing and revision between K&A and the Committee and subsequent review by the vice presidents and deans, the Student Success Plan was submitted for review and comment by the Board of Trustees at their meeting on February 8, 2019. Once the plan is approved and adopted for implementation, the College will create a detailed action/implementation plan that will include recommendations for required resources (new and reallocated), assessment measures, assignments of accountability, and timelines.