Strategies implemented to increase student retention

March 6, 2018
Heritage Hall "M"

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Each year, University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor Dennis J. Shields establishes work plan initiatives that support the university’s strategic plan. This year, he announced a focus on student success and retention.

In efforts to address this initiative, $500,000 was invested in student success, with part of the money being used to hire a team of retention specialists to implement proactive intervention campaigns to connect at-risk students with existing support services. Within its first semester, the team reached out to more than 1,300 students.

“The earlier you put students on a better path, the more likely they’ll finish strong,” said Dr. Karen McLeer, director of retention and academic support at UW-Platteville. “We’re in the business of student success, so we owe it to every student to make sure they have the resources and support needed to do their best work.”

By analyzing data and trends collected by Compass, a platform designed to collect information vital for a student’s success, the retention specialists established seven proactive outreach campaigns to targeted student populations. Ranging from first-term commuter students to juniors and seniors on academic probation, these specified populations allowed the retention specialists to provide resources and support specific to each student.

“While professors can often spot problems in the classroom, they don’t always know how a student is doing in other classes,” McLeer said. “With the data and research that we are able to analyze, our team of retention specialists has a bird’s-eye view of the entire student population and can recognize trends and patterns in students’ behaviors.”

Last semester, the team reached out to approximately 23 percent of the student population, offering specialized support and academic coaching. While some students were approached with informational campaigns providing additional materials about campus resources, other students were approached with action-oriented campaigns with direct invitations to tutorials, programs and meetings with their advisors.

Now with one semester of work at UW-Platteville complete, the retention specialists have been able to reflect and improve on last semester’s progress. The implementation of modified and new campaigns is already underway for the spring semester.

“UW-Platteville has a very competitive retention rate, especially in regards to its demographics,” McLeer said. “Historically, UW-Platteville’s retention rate has been competitive and ranges between 75 and 77 percent. If we continue with this campus-wide focus on retention, I have no doubt that the rate could grow even higher.”

UW-Platteville’s team of retention specialists include Megan Arey, liaison to Enrollment and Student Success, and Diversity and Inclusion; Aimee Belanger, liaison to the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science; Chad Harris, liaison to the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture; and Caleb Marse, liaison to the College of Liberal Arts and Education.

“It’s so exciting to see the work our team has been doing,” McLeer said. “I’m amazed by their shared commitment to our students.”

For more information about academic support programs at UW-Platteville, visit

Written by: Amanda Bertolozzi, Writer/Editor, Communications, 608-342-7121,


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