Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Academic Affairs addresses RUSA
On Thursday evening, Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) held a town hall with Ben Sifuentes-Jáuregui, the vice chancellor of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.
Sifuentes-Jáuregui spoke about his time at the head of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, wanting to prepare students for life after graduation, and asked RUSA members to contribute ideas to his ongoing initiatives.
He spoke in detail about the two major initiatives he had worked on this year: Student Success and increasing the four-year graduation rate.
“We want to get you out, in four years, with low debt and a job. That is how we define student success,” he said to students.
The Student Success project also involved encouraging students to take advantage of existing academic and career help on campus, such as the learning centers and University Career Services. Sifuentes-Jáuregui said he wanted all students, from first-years to seniors, to make use of Career Services.
“Advising is really important to the work we do in student success. It fills in the blanks of what we call the ‘invisible curricula,’” he said.
As an example, he suggested that much of the language surrounding college could be inaccessible to students who are the first in their family to attend.
The Student Success initiative is also investigating ways the University can use technology more effectively to help and advise students. One example of this is the one-stop model, which works to create an integrated service in the areas of financial aid, student accounts and registration.
The four-year graduation rate initiative aims to increase the number of students graduating within four years from 59% to 75%, with the goal of a 10-point increase in the next five years.
In order to do this, Sifuentes-Jáuregui discussed making improvements to first-year mandatory classes that students may struggle with, which may be preventing them from completing their major in four years.
Rutgers falls around the middle in comparison to the four-year graduation rates of other Big Ten universities, a rank that Sifuentes-Jáuregui hopes to improve by enhancing the support students receive, particularly in their first two years.
He also highlighted some of the work RUSA has collaborated with Undergraduate Academic Affairs on, such as creating a taskforce to recommend only two brands of clickers to faculty and staff in order to prevent students from having to buy multiple brands of clickers.
The two also collaborated on the final exam initiative, which aims to prevent final exams from taking place during the last week of classes, and encourages staff to put information about disability services and health and wellness on class syllabi.
Students questioned the vice chancellor on how he planned to help students who needed internships but struggled financially to work without pay. Sifuentes-Jáuregui said that his office was working on trying to set aside funding to help students in unpaid or low-paid internships.
Also in attendance were Assistant Vice Chancellors Michael Hewson and James H. Whitney III, who answered questions from students and participated in the discussion.