Select Page

In higher education there is consistent pressure on every institution to specialize—to be “known for” something and an “expert in” something.

Chancellor Andrew Leavitt

Not to sound immodest, but (as you know) this is difficult for UWO. We’re great at so many things, and for good reason. The University has grown and evolved over the decades to serve as many things for many people, be they students, faculty and staff members, alumni or community partners.

However, if you had to pin me down and demand that UWO be renowned for a something beyond sustainability, rich and rewarding academic programs, unparalleled student-faculty mentorship, here is my answer: a passion for, a commitment to and a track record of student success.

What does that mean?

UWO recognizes the spectrum of student strengths, stories and needs. It informs how we work to ensure student success. While we have strategic targets and goals to improve student enrollment, retention, experience, graduation and career success, we will never be complacent or satisfied with reaching a benchmark. We’re about consistent improvement.

As I shared with faculty and staff colleagues at this academic year’s launch, we know from previous analysis too many students leave UWO for reasons ranging from financial, academic, family and mental and physical well-being. So, last fall, we welcomed a new corps of colleagues: Student Outreach and Retention Navigators. In short order, we imagined, structured, recruited and on-boarded a team of eight new colleagues to join five redirected colleagues. This team’s job is to maintain a 100% focus on student success.

Each navigator works with about 100 Titans, staying connected with them from their first years into their second years. They are not academic planners, counselors or professional advisers. Navigators are, as their title suggests, guides and, when necessary, pilots fully focused on identifying and safely maneuvering students around or through obstacles and hazards. These may be academic or life challenges. The point is, we need to see students and help them avoid or address hazards before their journeys are disrupted.

We also developed a UWO One Stop website to be a stronger, clearer, centralized resource to support students. We offer live chat features to diagnose student challenges and offer options and guidance.

You’ll find more about our efforts to help students succeed in the pages of this magazine, but if you’d like to hear even more or if you’d like to discuss how you can help us in these efforts—financially or otherwise—please reach out. This is something we want to have conversations about.

I look forward to honing UWO’s identity as the UW System’s capital for student success. We have work to do, and it is good work.

Chancellor Andy Leavitt
he, him, his

More from Titan magazine: