The first of five freshmen orientations are underway at Stephen F. Austin State University.
The gathering of students, parents and SFA staff members is designed to immediately acquaint everyone. Learning the SFA fight song and Lumberjack hand symbol breaks the ice.
The more difficult, long term goal is to harness that spirit for at least four years. Director of Counseling and Career Services Ralph Busby said, "We see our mission as an integrated one. One that will get the student and the families to commit to SFA for the long term. They can actually connect to the university and make the commitment to the 4-year degree program."
Achieving the goal brings administrators out of their offices to personally work on the serious concern of retention.
Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Marlin Young had lunch in the school cafeteria where he answered students and parents questions. Young said, "We've dropped to 58% (retention rate), and that's not good compared to other Texas universities. We must improve our retention."
Reorganization of SFA's recruiting and admissions has begun. A director of enrollment management will be hired eliminating the director of admissions position.
Other areas of concern are also under study said Dr. Young. "We've got to look at the pass/fail [rate], the advising. We'll be doing a pilot study this fall with approximately 150 incoming students and doing some surveying of those students."
Students may tell them the secret to retaining students depends more on the student than the school.
"Good study habits, good friends and good parents," believes Jeff Manwaring, an incoming freshman from the Woodlands.