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The ASRR Conference is planned by the following program partners:

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Conference Agenda

Welcome to the 2016 Adult Student Recruitment and
Retention Conference


  1. Recruitment and Marketing
  2. Retention
  3. Policy and Instruction

Keynote Speakers

Lisa Peck 
Peck Keynote 2016Lisa G. Peck is Associate Director of the Academic Advisement Center at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU), her alma mater. Before returning to her alma mater as an advisor, Lisa was an academic advisor exclusively for adult learners in the Accelerated Degree Program division at Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut. Lisa holds a B.A. in English/Writing and an M.A. in English from WCSU. Lisa has taught various English and communication classes as an adjunct instructor at several colleges.

As a former “adult learner” herself, Lisa is passionate about working with other adults who wish to return to higher education. At WCSU, Lisa helped to establish a student organization called the “Older Wiser Learners” (O.W.L.s) to support adult learners, and she served as the administrative faculty advisor for several years (until the O.W.L.s went into hibernation two years ago). She originated and holds an adult learner orientation each year; she established the Pi Zeta chapter of Alpha Sigma Lambda, an adult learner honor society, for which she holds an induction each year. Lisa identifies adult learners for the Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) scholarship twice a year. Most recently, Lisa was chosen by the Dean of Arts and Sciences at WCSU to help create a B.A. in Liberal Arts, geared specifically toward the adult learner.

Dr. John Dirkx
Dirkx Keynote 2016John M. Dirkx is Professor and Mildred B. Erickson Distinguished Chair Emeritus in Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education and Director of the College of Education Masters of Arts in Education online program at Michigan State University. Dirkx received his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1987 in continuing education, where he studied adult learning, group dynamics and transformative education. From 1988 – 1996, he served as a professor of Vocational and Adult Education at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. 

Dirkx is editor of the Journal of Transformative Education, former editor of Adult Education Quarterly, author of A Guide to Planning and Implementing Instruction for Adults: A Theme-based Approach, editor of Adult Learning and the Emotional Self, and author of numerous book chapters and journal articles on teaching and learning in higher and adult education. He serves on the editorial boards for several scholarly journals within higher and adult education. Dirkx is currently working on a book on the transformative dimensions of teaching and learning. He studies adult learning in higher education, internationalization of graduate education, and faculty development in higher education.

Dirkx is married and has two adult children. He enjoys spending time with his family, bicycling, and riding his motorcycle on quiet country roads.

Dr. Perry Rettig
Rettig Keynote 2016Dr. Rettig serves as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Piedmont College in Georgia. Units reporting to him include: School of Arts & Science, School of Business Administration, School of Education, School of Nursing and Health Sciences, Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, the Library, Office of the Registrar, Undergraduate Admissions, and Graduate Admissions. 

Prior to his current position, Rettig served as Associate Vice Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where he served also as a faculty member since 1997. He began his career as a public school teacher in Pulaski, Wisconsin, before moving to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where he served as a principal for seven years. He also served as a professor of educational leadership for one year at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

The author of three books, dozens of articles, and numerous presentations to national and international audiences, Dr. Rettig keeps an active scholarship agenda. His current focus is democratic governance and shared decision-making.

Conference Agenda

MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2016  
8 - 9:30 a.m. Registration and Breakfast Buffet
9:30 - 10:45 a.m. Welcome and Keynote Presentation


Creating a Relevant Climate for Adult Learners
Presented by: Lisa G. Peck, Associate Director, Academic Advisement Center, Western Connecticut State University
Over the next several years, the adult learner population is expected to grow faster than the traditional student population nationally; yet many of our campuses are focused on recruiting and retaining traditional students. And while both populations – adult learner and traditional-age learner – may attend classes together, the higher education experience is different for the adult learner in several ways. Realizing that the adult learner may be a veteran, may be raising a family (sometimes as a single parent), and also may be juggling work and other adult responsibilities, the way in which we reach out to this population can play a major role in retention.

As a former adult learner, I felt out of place on a college campus that appeared to be focused solely on eighteen-year olds. Nothing on campus seemed to relate to my adult life from student orientation to student organizations to student support.  Fast forward to my first academic advisement position at a private university, which focused solely on adult learners in an accelerated degree program, and I quickly learned that my experience as an adult learner was not unique.

I made it my mission to help adults acclimate to higher education and develop a sense of sense of belonging and, eventually, a sense of pride in themselves and their institution. Among the latest buzz phrases in academia are “creating a sense of belonging” or “enhancing student engagement.”  Are we engaging our adult learners? Are we creating a welcoming environment that invites a “sense of belonging?” By creating a “relevant climate” for adult learners, academic advisors and other student services can enhance student success and retention.

10:45 - 11 a.m. Networking Break
11 a.m. - Noon Sectional Presentations 


The Power to Change Lives: The UW Odyssey Project
Presented by: Dr. Emily Auerbach, Professor of English and Director, UW Odyssey Project
Since 2003 the UW Odyssey Project has transformed the lives of adults near the poverty level. Graduates of the program have moved from homelessness to UW-Madison degrees, from incarceration to meaningful work in the community. Discover how this program has succeeded and how it could be replicated.

Creating Strategies to Support and Retain Adult Learners
Presented by: Lisa G. Peck, Associate Director, Academic Advisement Center, Western Connecticut State University
Why should colleges and universities be concerned with creating strategies to retain the adult learner population?

In 2000, the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) stated that “the misconception still exists that adult learners are ‘self-supporting’ and do not need the same level of support as 18-23 year olds. In reality, adult learners need as much as, if not more, than their younger cohorts in the way of quality academic and student support.”

Adult learners come to our campuses filled with excitement about venturing into higher education, and yet there are (often unspoken) questions that may create anxiety:

  • How am I going to juggle work, family, school and other obligations?
  • Will I be able to compete with younger students, academically?
  • Who can I go to for advice about courses?
  • Where can I go to get help with a career transition?
  • How can I navigate the library? Remember the library card catalogs?
  • Are there going to be other adult students on campus? Often, there is a feeling of isolation.

Developing a sense of place, a voice and a valued sense of self can be difficult amidst the traditional student population.

In this session, not only will we explore some of the challenges facing the adult learner, but also spend time working on ways to address those challenges on our individual campuses.


Noon - 12:15 p.m. Networking Break
12:15 - 1:30 p.m. Lunch and Keynote Presentations


Creating Motivating Environments for Adult Learners
Presented by: Dr. John M. Dirkx, Professor, Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education, Michigan State University
Almost 40% of all postsecondary education students are adult learners. These students lead complex lives, often weaving their educational pursuits within a demanding fabric of work, family, and civic commitments. In the present higher education environment, recruiting and retaining these students represents a significant challenge facing educators and policy makers alike. Adult learners want and are looking for meaningful and motivating learning environments. In particular, their classroom experiences provide adult learners with relationships and opportunities for engagement that are important to their persistence. Technology, globalization, and an increasingly diverse population, however, are rapidly redefining the nature and meaning of the “classroom experience.”

In this presentation, we will explore how this classroom experience is changing and the implications of these changes for our approaches to recruiting and retaining adult learners. These “classroom experiences,” whether online or face-to-face, need to reflect a curriculum that is flexible and responsive to their professional and personal needs, and learning experiences in which they are actively engaged and that address their diverse learning styles. This presentation will build on the idea that learning arises from powerful relationships between the learner, the content, and the context. We will identify key strategies that honor and give voice to these relationships, fostering more meaningful and motivating learning environments for our adult learners.

1:30 - 1:45 p.m. Networking Break
1:45 - 2:45 p.m. Sectional Presentations


All Hands on Deck for Success: An Online Orientation Project at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
Presented by: Steven Boldt, Director of Online Development & Educational Innovation; Haley Kerkhoff, Instructional Technologist; and Keri Johnson, Project Manager for Summer Term & Educational Innovation, UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies
In a large, complex, decentralized environment, a multi-disciplinary team came together at the University of Wisconsin–Madison to develop one, unified, four-part orientation for use in online courses. The team sought to create an informational support structure for online students and do it with centralized learning technologies in a way that could be scaled to serve a larger audience, long-term. The ultimate goal of the project was to not only orient students to the online learning environment and make the required technology as transparent as possible, but also prepare them to engage and be successful in their educational experience. The project is being piloted in summer 2015 with 15 undergraduate online courses that enroll approximately 1,000 students. After evaluation of the pilot, the orientation tool will be made available across the university, including for use with academic year online courses, online graduate programs, and non-credit programming. This roundtable discussion led by representatives of the developing team will consist of three segments: (1) A brief overview of the project from inception to evaluation; (2) A discussion exploring the benefits and challenges of developing a “one size fits all” online orientation; (3) Participant feedback and an inclusive dialogue around what others have seen or experienced regarding centralized campus technology tools in decentralized environments.

The Student Engagement Lifecycle: A holistic approach to student success
Presented by: Dr. Lynne R. Hull, Dean of Students, Franklin University; and Blake J. Renner, Ed.D., Director of Graduate Engagement, Retention Programs, Community Standards, & Title IX Coordinator, Franklin University
Large numbers of adult students enroll at U.S. colleges and universities, each with a unique set of circumstances that impact their quest for undergraduate degree attainment. Many transfer credits between multiple institutions and experience significant disruption to their academic process. At Franklin University, an open-enrollment, adult-focused institution, approximately 77.5% of our students bring transfer credits with them. Understanding the unique challenges presented by this population, Franklin’s Department of Student Affairs developed the Student Engagement LifeCycle (SELC), a model that uses strategic engagement to support a high-quality experience that promotes and has resulted in increased retention and student success.

LGBTQ+ College Students
Presented by: Dr. D.A. Dirks, Senior Academic Planner, University of Wisconsin System; and Gabriel C. Javier, Assistant Dean of Students and Director, LGBT Campus Center, University of Wisconsin Madison
This presentation is designed for individuals who are interested in learning more about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) college students. The session offers a basic introduction to current terms and definitions and provides information on how to offer support to LGBTQ+ identified students. This session will also offer an opportunity for attendees to ask questions and share information with one another. Resources will be provided.

Transformation of the Returning Adult Learner
Presented by: Dr. John M. Dirkx, Professor, Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education, Michigan State University
When adults decide to return to school, they enter into a process that can and often does transform their very sense of self and what it means to be in the world. But like Dante’s journey through Middle Earth, their passage is not assured merely by their showing up. Often adult learners face dangers and wrong turns in this journey that can challenge the most determined among them. This session focuses on recognizing what these dangers are and how they manifest themselves within the lives of returning adult learners. We will discuss how these experiences can be used in classroom and college environments to help adults navigate the transformative potential inherent in the process of becoming a college student.

2:45 - 3 p.m. Networking Break 
3 - 4 p.m.  Sectional Presentations 


Feedback: Keeping Online Learners Engaged
Presented by: Bridget Powell, Program Manager & Online Instructor; and Dr. Janet Staker Woerner, Faculty Associate, Distance Education Professional Development
UW-Madison’s Distance Education Professional Development has been providing professional development for online educators since 1993. In this session the presenters will discuss current professional development offerings, provide an update on current tools and technologies, and review ways to provide learner feedback in order to increase learner retention. We will explore the online “classroom” by showing examples of how current technology can support a learner’s success through rich and robust feedback. Participants will come away with knowledge about professional development opportunities for online educators, ideas for incorporating tools into learner communications, and ways to boost learner retention.

Understanding Nontraditional Learners – Implications for Fostering Positive Educational Experiences
Presented by: Dr. Lisa Elsinger, Adjunct Faculty, University of Wisconsin Madison, and Manager of Prevention & Health Promotion, Dean Health Plan
As we focus on refining our approaches to facilitating learning for adults, it is important to consider factors influencing beliefs and attitudes about learning, and the actions that result from individual and collective perspectives on learning, teaching, behavior change, and overall lifestyle.  This session will address complexities of adult learners, enabling practitioners to critically reflect on their practice and take a fresh look at how adult education programs can be designed to foster positive learning experiences leading to rewarding outcomes.

The Life Cycle of the Military/Veteran Student: Recruitment, Admissions, Advising, Graduation and Beyond
Presented by: Annie Weberpal, Student Services Coordinator, UW Colleges Online
This session will explore the unique challenges, experiences, and abilities that military and veteran students bring to your university or college and will focus on:

  • How to attract military, veteran, and military family member students during the recruitment process
  • The effects of federal legislation on residency and Joint Services Transcript evaluations during the admissions phase
  • The impact that the myriad of military benefits have on the advising process and retention efforts
  • How to help students translate military skills to civilian language before graduating and embarking on a career search


7:15 - 8:15 a.m. Breakfast Buffet 
8:15 - 8:30 a.m. Networking Break 
8:30 - 9:30 a.m.  Sectional Presentations 


Recruiting Diverse Students: Why it’s Different and the Same
Presented by: Dr. Sylvia Carey-Butler, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Support of Inclusive Excellence, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Institutions that want to stay competitive, that want to be the first choice of potential students of color (and their parents) need to focus on how they recruit those students. Additionally, a great deal of thought and attention needs to be given to the campus environment, which often impacts a student’s decision to stay or leave an institution. In other words, what support systems exist on campus for students of color and how are those systems being accessed and supported? Institutions who seek to retain the students of color they recruit must understand that retention is the flip side of recruitment.
This session will address some of the issues colleges and universities face in recruiting and retaining diverse students and will provide participants with promising practices that can assist them in their recruitment and retention efforts.

Building the plane as we fly: Implementing collaborative solutions to enhance the CBE student experience!
Presented by: Laura Lenz-Perkins, Admissions Manager, UW-Extension; Nadia Kaminski, ASC Manager, UW-Extension; and Shari Henning, Student Support Service Center Coordinator, UW-Extension
In January 2014, the University of Wisconsin System launched UW Flexible Option, a portfolio of online degrees and certificates offered in an innovative self-paced, competency-based format. In this “never before” model, five UW System institutions delivering academic programs are provided with operational and student support administered centrally through the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Office of Student Success. Flex has pushed traditional boundaries to realize creative approaches to policy, process and the delivery of highly personalized “wrap around” support. With the optimal student experience as its goal, a small team of student services professionals have realized big ways of creatively structuring its services to meet individual student needs in a CBE world while successfully navigating traditional norms and requirements.

This session will provide a high level overview of UW Flexible Option’s unique multi-institutional system approach to competency-based education targeting adult learners. It will then highlight some of the specific challenges and opportunities discovered along the way in creating an innovative centralized student support model serving multiple campuses. Included will be several examples of policies, processes, technologies and systems that were not designed with a CBE modality in mind, and the steps that were taken to creatively address these pressure points. Finally, specific focus will be placed on highlighting the unique roles within Flex and the critical impact on student engagement, progress and success.

Who Are We Talking About? It Makes a Difference: What Are We Doing About It? It Is Making a Difference
Presented by: Dr. Perry R. Rettig, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Education, Piedmont College
This session will be interactive and provide some initial perceptions for the keynote address to follow. We will try to reach beyond the generic descriptions of nontraditional students to more specific descriptions. From this starting point, we will dialogue about what we have found to work but also where we seem to come up short. We’ll conclude with a discussion of conceptual models that might help both students and staff to become more engaged in their college experience. 

9:30 - 9:45 a.m. Networking Break 
9:45 - 11 a.m.  Keynote Presentation and Closing 


Like Two Ships That Passed In the Night
Presented by: Dr. Perry R. Rettig, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Education, Piedmont College
Nontraditional students are not monolithic beings.  Our responses to meet their needs must not be monolithic either. And, since we’re on the subject of people—just who are those professors? What’s up with them? Why won’t they listen to us?

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