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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Student retention top priority for administrator

August 16, 2003

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Marlesa Roney says something as simple as a name change can make a big difference at Kansas University.

Last year, KU administrators changed the "Division of Student Affairs" to the "Office of Student Success." Roney, the new vice provost for student success, said it's the first step in breaking down administrative barriers that sometimes leave campus offices competing for the same pot of money.

"To me what it means is bringing a clearer focus on the students," Roney said. "We can begin to dismantle the unnecessary walls that have grown up in the fundamental areas."

Roney, who started at KU in June, came from the University of Akron, where she was vice president for student affairs since 2000. A native of Concordia, she has three degrees from Kansas State University.

"It was a great opportunity to work at a well-respected institution like KU," she said, "and to have that institution be in my home state was something I couldn't walk away from."

The Office of Student Success includes student retention, academic success and graduation efforts. Roney succeeds Mary Lee Hummert, KU professor of communication studies, who served as interim vice provost for student support since Aug. 1, 2002, when the vice provost of student affairs, David Ambler, retired after 25 years of service in student services at KU.

One of Roney's goals will be to increase student retention rates between the freshman and sophomore years. About 81 percent of freshmen in fall 2001 returned for fall 2002.

"There's some very promising data that the Freshman/Sophomore Advising Center is making a difference," Roney said. "We need to look at the next layer of data, to figure out which students are graduating."

She said her main task during the first few months on the job is to listen to her colleagues' ideas. And she hopes to be a role model for KU students she works with, continuing to balance her work life with her hobbies of music, running and biking.

"I'll give KU a good day's work, but if students see all we do is put in 12-hour days every day and not have any fun, we're not very good role models," Roney said.

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