UNO Hosts Louisiana Higher Education Professionals on Monday for Conference on Student Retention

More than 200 higher education professionals from the state of Louisiana will arrive on Monday to the campus of the University of New Orleans to attend a conference focused on student retention and the various ways in which administrators and faculty can enhance student life to make students’ college experiences more meaningful.

“Beyond Access: Focusing on Student Engagement” will be the 39th Annual Conference of The Louisiana Association of College and University Student Personnel Administrators. The association was founded in 1974 to provide Louisiana student affairs officers a networking structure and an organization that allows sharing of knowledge and information on important topics they face.

The conference runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 17 in the University Center. Check-in begins at 8 a.m. Enrollment remains open at a cost of $80 for professionals and $30 for students, said Dale O’Neill, who is coordinator of leadership and service programs at UNO and site coordinator for the event. Those interested may register for the event on the spot.

“It’s really wonderful that we’re having the conference here at UNO because it will bring together Louisiana higher education professionals from all over the state, so it’s really showcasing our university,” said O’Neill. “And it’s wonderful because it’s all about student retention. It’s not only about increasing enrollment numbers. It’s about increasing enrollment numbers and ensuring that we retain these students for four years and help them graduate and thrive. Retention issues are a statewide issue and it’s wonderful that UNO is the place where these conversations are taking place between higher ed leaders.”

UNO has the only higher education doctorate program in the city and draws graduate students from neighboring universities including Tulane University, Loyola University, Xavier University and others, said O’Neill, who is also pursuing a doctorate in higher education at UNO.

Syracuse University Distinguished University Professor Vincent Tinto will be the keynote speaker at Monday’s conference. Tinto is a renowned researcher on college student retention and chair of the higher education program at Syracuse University. He has written extensively on higher education, particularly on student retention and the impact of learning communities on student growth and attainment. In his most recent book, Completing College: Rethinking Institutional Action (The University of Chicago Press, 2012) Tinto lays out a framework for institutional action to promote student success, as well as the policies and procedures needed to ensure that action is effective.

Monday's conference will include panel discussions, breakout sessions and knowledge community meetings focused on core university functions such as student union and student activities, housing and residence life, student affair and judicial affairs/student rights and responsibilities.

The day will also include a variety of enlightening breakout sessions on target areas including: engagement of African-American students, creating a space for spirituality in higher education, leveraging technology, retaining first-generation college students, developing student involvement and transition programs that appeal to the needs of a variety of student populations, assessing student retention initiatives, student development and customer service.

All conference events are designed in an attempt to help Louisiana higher education leaders learn more about strategies and techniques to serve students better, O'Neill said.

“With all of these travel expense freezes, this is a great opportunity to attend a conference that is literally in the University Center and learn more about how to better develop our students,” O’Neill said. “All you have to do is walk across campus.

The following discussions at Monday's conference will be led or co-led by UNO administrators, UNO faculty and UNO graduate students:

"Are you stuck in a rut? Are you trying to appeal to a variety of student population needs? Do you feel like you are simply going through the motions because 'It’s tradition'?"
Christy Heaton, Associate Director for Orientation and First Year Student Success, UNO
Dale O’Neill, Coordinator Leadership & Service Programs, UNO

"Strategies for engaging African American Males in a PK-16+ continuum"
Desiree Anderson, Associate Director Multicultural Affairs, Tulane University
Jennifer Grace, Professional School Counselor, John McDonough Senior High

"First-Generation College Students in the University of Louisiana System"
Cherie’ Kay Thriffiley, Director Office Student Engagement, Southeastern University
Dale O’Neill, Coordinator Leadership & Service Programs, UNO

"Engaging Students in the Sciences Using a Discipline Specific First-Year Seminar"
Lindsey B. Jakiel, Chemistry Programs/UNO College of Sciences Recruitment & Retention Coordinator

"Gay, Straight-Acting Adonis Seeks Same: A Sample Study"
Ryan-Jasen Henne, Associate Director Residence Life, Tulane University

"A Case Study of Student Run Student Affairs at a Private College with a
High Rate of Retention"
Dr. Victoria M. Palmisano

"Oil & Water? Student Development and Customer Service"
Ryan-Jasen Henne, Associate Director Residence Life, Tulane University
Tabitha Williams, Area Director Residence Life, Tulane University