July 27, 2018
NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) announces the campus recently received a three-year, $135,000 grant to improve persistence, retention and academic standing for MCLA students. The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation, established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis's retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

Implementation of this new project, “Enriching Advising Culture for Integrative Learning,” will allow the campus to unify previous initiatives into a cohesive, systemic culture, as MCLA continues to provide a more cognizant and intentional advising system focused on student support, success and persistence.

According to Monica Joslin, dean of academic affairs, the funding allows MCLA to build on previous Davis Educational Foundation-funded projects, “Innovations in Advising, Learning and Teaching” (2013) and “Blazing a Trail for Student Success” (2015), as the College further deepens and enhances its advising culture.

“MCLA’s faculty and staff have impressive expertise, experience, and dedication to student success,” Joslin said. “We are honored to receive support from the Davis Educational Foundation, which will allow us to expand on previous initiatives supported by the foundation, as we continue to support student success and persistence.”

Through the use of its online course management system, Canvas, “Blazing a Trail for Student Success,” MCLA will identify at-risk students as soon as they begin to fall behind in courses; improve communication flow among faculty, faculty advisors, and support services; provide an electronic communication mechanism to facilitate and record interventions; and develop a tested set of intervention strategies for students who fall behind.

The initiative will be led by project co-directors Dr. Gerol Petruzella, associate director of academic technology who co-directed the two previous Davis-funded projects, and Faculty Development Fellow Dr. Ruby Inez Vega, an assistant professor of psychology, who also serves as an academic advisor to psychology majors. They will be supported by other faculty and staff.

As part of this grant, MCLA will work with its Information Technology (IT) team to develop an advising dashboard. This will facilitate the College’s goal of applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to advising practices.

According to Petruzella, one significant focus of the project is to make effective advising part of the culture at MCLA.

“Advising has an essential role in student success. Previous grant-funded projects have been instrumental in adding to an advisor’s toolkit, with software like Dropout Detective and Canvas Advising,” Petruzella said. “An advising dashboard will synthesize the multiple sources of data in context, altogether, so that an advisor can see the overall picture of a student's information, rather than one narrow slice at a time.”

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

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