Off-Campus Student Success Focused on Supporting Commuter Freshman Students

The new Off-Campus Student Success program has been restructured as an academic support and retention initiative serving freshman commuter students.

The former Off-Campus Student Services department provided housing and leasing support as well as mentoring and outreach. As of fall 2019, the new Off-Campus Student Success is no longer a housing and leasing support office and instead is laser-focused on academic support and retention of off-campus students beginning in their first year at the University of Arkansas.

The Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education adopted the new Off-Campus Student Success program as a part of its larger retention initiatives supporting underrepresented and first-generation students at the University of Arkansas. The newly established program supports U of A students who begin their college careers as commuter students rather than in University Housing. Most commonly, OCSS students live with parents in Northwest Arkansas.

In an effort to help students access resources and forge a connection to the University of Arkansas campus, OCSS services include a University Perspectives course called Off-Campus 360 that is geared specifically for commuter freshmen during which they are paired with peer mentors for their first semester at the U of A. Eighty-five percent of the freshmen who were enrolled in the first OC 360 course in fall 2019 have continued their enrollment in the spring 2020. Seventy-five percent of these retained students have subsequently been awarded a Student Success participation scholarship, which requires continued contact with staff throughout the spring semester.  

Commuter students also have the opportunity to join the Off-Campus Academic Enrichment Program, which is an opt-in retention-until-graduation program for students who prefer targeted programming and a higher level of campus involvement. The 35 freshmen who are currently participating are receiving peer mentoring, study and testing supplies, networking and leadership opportunities, and staff guidance. Thanks to Chartwells and Student Affairs, 14 participants in the enrichment program have been awarded Chartwells meal plan scholarships to help them stay energized and healthy during the Spring semester. Students who continue their participation in Off-Campus Academic Enrichment Program will be invited to the annual graduation celebration banquet that includes special recognitions.

"The University saw a need to support, in a more intentional way, the traditional incoming freshman who does not live on campus, and we are happy to do that work," said Brande Flack, director of Retention Programs for the Multicultural Center. The OCSS team currently includes one full-time staff member, two graduate assistants, two student ambassadors, and several peer mentors, and serves approximately 496 full-time freshmen commuters. For more information about the Off-Campus Student Success program or the new structure of the office, please contact Brande Flack at iliveoff@uark.edu.

About the Division of Student Affairs: The Division of Student Affairs supports students in their pursuit of knowledge, earning a degree, finding meaningful careers, and connecting with the global community. We provide students housing, dining, and health care resources, create innovative programs that educate and inspire, and offer inclusive support for a diverse student body. We enhance the University of Arkansas experience and help students succeed, one student at a time.

Contacts

Scott Flanagin, executive director of communications
Division of Student Affairs
479-575-6785, sflanagi@uark.edu

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