Over the last 18 months, education institutions of all sizes have leaned into their missions and values and innovated like never before to ensure the success of students, faculty, and staff. As we sit at this pivotal moment, we have an opportunity to apply an entirely new mindset by thinking about the student experience not as separate solutions for every problem, but as an opportunity to create a single source of truth across experiences that will empower proactive and equitable support for every student. This is our moment to ensure that students are not only seen, heard, and valued, but also uplifted.
At Salesforce.org, we continue to focus on customer-driven innovation and our purpose-built products, and I am excited to share some news about one of those products — Advisor Link.
Globally, institutions of all types are using Advisor Link for academic advising, and increasingly for new use cases like onboarding, wellbeing, and careers. These expansive new use cases have inspired us to think about Advisor Link in a whole new way — as a platform that can connect the entire student experience.
With that, we are excited to announce that Advisor Link has a new name, Student Success Hub for Higher Education. This new name speaks to our vision for holistic student support and the future of student success. And with this announcement, we now have a Student Success Hub for Higher Ed and for K-12, creating a connected experience for learners throughout their entire education journey.
At Dreamforce, I had the opportunity to talk with two student success Trailblazers from Case Western Reserve University. In this interview, Tom Matthews, associate provost for student success, and Robert Soloman, vice president and chief diversity officer, shared their thoughts on how to create equitable and holistic student support for all students.
Navneet Johal (NJ): Transforming experiences into lifelong relationships requires a holistic approach to learner success. How are you thinking about this first and foremost from a cultural perspective and then from a technology standpoint across campus?
Robert Solomon (RS): From a cultural perspective, it is vitally important that we address the needs of the whole student. Historically it’s easy to really lapse into this notion that we’re looking strictly at what’s happening academically in the classroom. However, many of the greatest lessons that students learn when they’re at an institution occur outside of the classroom.
Therefore, when we think about students in a comprehensive and holistic manner, we can better meet their needs both inside and outside of the classroom. Technology then becomes an invaluable resource for us to better meet those needs, to have a better understanding of our students, their unique experiences, and how we can target our efforts in an effective and efficient way to meet those needs.
NJ: Student Success Hub for Higher Education is our new name for Advisor Link. Share your thoughts on this new name, and how your staff is using Student Success Hub to support students and drive retention at Case Western Reserve University.
Tom Matthews (TM): Firstly, I am very excited about the rebranding to the Student Success Hub. Not only is it descriptive, but the word “hub” allows students to understand there’s a center and a focus to the activity. This new name will resonate with our students, and also with our faculty and staff who are in that shared space.
Our original intent was to choose a platform that allowed us to achieve our goals, which were twofold; firstly to increase first to second year student retention to 96%, and secondly to increase our six year graduation rate to 88%. Retention for some is not necessarily a goal that gets them out of bed in the morning, but it is for us as student success leaders. So we thought, how do we break that down and how do we make it a shared mission? We decided to focus on creating a sense of belonging because we believe that ultimately retention is students experiencing a sense of connection in the form of belonging.
A guiding strategy for Case Western Reserve University has been to take a high-touch, high-tech approach to the student experience.
A guiding strategy for us has been to take a high-touch, high-tech approach to the student experience. The high-touch piece focuses on people, and we assigned every undergraduate student a navigator. This is someone to guide them through the complexities of a large research university. It also includes connections with faculty advisors, with career and internship consultants, and with others who are connected to them.
The high-tech piece focuses on the technology and this is where Salesforce comes in. We chose Salesforce and relied on their expertise because we believe it has been the greatest resource to help us integrate ten platforms on campus that were previously disparate and disconnected in ways that students couldn’t possibly begin to maneuver.
It is evident that we have a strategic and an operational advantage through the use of Student Success Hub, and are making good progress in our pursuit of a 96% retention rate. The two primary connections that we wanted students to make was with a navigator, as well as with a career and internship consultant. Undergraduate students that had contact with one or the other in 2020 increased to 93%, and Student Success Hub has been a huge reason for that. When we look at our underrepresented minorities, those numbers are even higher. In 2020, 89% of our undergraduate underrepresented minorities made contact with their navigator or a career and internship consultant. Fast forward one year, and that number has increased to 96%.
In a nutshell, Student Success Hub has moved us forward not only in our retention goals, but also in giving students that sense of belonging. Moreover, we have a platform that not only allowed us to start where we thought we needed to start, but also it gave us a runway to achieve more of our strategic goals, and we’re doing that in just over 18 months.
NJ: Student wellbeing challenges are rapidly increasing, and it’s increasingly critical for young people to have a care team supporting their wellbeing. How is Case Western Reserve approaching student wellbeing and what advice do you have for other institutions that are navigating this as well?
TM: This is an important question, and our students expect for their wellbeing to be at the center of their experience. They arrive with particular ideas on how that wellbeing should be supported, and they also expect that we will have anticipated their needs.
RS: I agree with Tom, and would add that we should always remember that we are more than our advocation, and our students are more than what happens on the test. Our students are whole human beings, and those of us who serve and support them should think of them in those terms. It is important to use the language that resonates with them, and go to them with an understanding that while we want them to excel academically, we also want them to develop personally. We want them to know that their wellbeing is top of mind for us, and we will structure how we support them accordingly.
Learn more about how Case Western Reserve University implemented Student Success Hub to deliver high-touch, high-impact advising experiences.
About the Author
Director, Industry Solutions at Salesforce.org