Board of Visitors

Student Life Committee Meeting June 11, 2021

Present from the Board

  • Gabe Morgan, Chair
  • Regina Brayboy
  • Steve Kast
  • Christy Morton
  • Judy Wason
  • Junius H. Williams, Jr.

Present from Administration, Faculty, and Students

  • Lisa Duncan Raines, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success
  • Kevin Hughes, Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Rob Lange, Dean of Admission
  • Rocio Gordon, Faculty Senate Representative
  • Mary Romanello, Student Government Association President

Chairman Morgan called the meeting to order at 8:30 a.m.

Approval of Minutes

Chairman Morgan called for a motion to approve the minutes of the Student Life Committee of April 16, 2021. Mr. Williams provided the motion which was seconded by Ms. Wason. The minutes were approved by a unanimous vote of the Committee.

Student Affairs

Dr. Hughes began by acknowledging the successful conclusion to what had been a very unique academic year. Having celebrated two graduating classes with much positive feedback, the transition is beginning now to Fall 2021 with the hope of normalcy.

As he reported at the last meeting, the positivity rate on campus has dropped, with the last positive case of COVID-19 having been reported on April 11, 2021 and out of isolation as of April 21, 2021. Dr. Hughes stated the campus remains prepared with a case management plan should circumstances change.

Dr. Hughes discussed the relaxed restrictions on campus pursuant to guidelines from the Commonwealth relating to mask requirements and physical distancing, and confirmed that campus will reopen to the public on July 6, 2021.

Dr. Hughes credited vaccinations in large part to the relaxed restrictions, and emphasized there had been both positive and negative feedback in terms of the vaccination requirement. He felt those responses were understandable, and largely due to fears and anxiety about the unknown. However, the decision to require vaccinations is consistent with the University’s approach from the beginning and follows the same guidance in place to protect the campus community.

There will be no real restrictions for unvaccinated individuals; as a Christopher Newport community, we will continue to gather in the classroom, to eat and to live. Recommended guidelines from the Commonwealth will be closely followed and observed on our campus.

Despite the progress made, Dr. Hughes reminded the group the virus is still dangerous and indicated the campus community needed to remain mindful that our students are not restricted to campus.

Stressing the importance of personal touch, Dr. Hughes reported Residence Life made 60,000 connections with students this year, focusing on staying connected with our student population.

Setting Sail will begin next week, and new students will be introduced to Christopher Newport University. Through presentations, interactions with students, informational sessions and dining, our newest Captains will have the opportunity to engage on a very different level than high school. The fall semester will also be a time to reintroduce our sophomores to campus; their first year experience was very different as well.

Chairman Morgan reiterated that the vaccination policy discussion had been robust, and the updated policy was certain to meet some objection. He credited the reduced number of cases on campus to the policies put in place, and the students’ compliance.

Enrollment and Student Success

Reflecting on the last year, Dr. Duncan Raines expressed appreciation for the campus community’s efforts during unprecedented times. The two recent commencement celebrations were successful, and truly displayed the spirit of Christopher Newport University. Of the 1,168 degrees conferred in 2020, nearly half of these graduates returned to campus to celebrate on May 8, 2021. The Class of 2021 included 1,183 degree conferrals, 1,098 of which were undergraduate and 85 were on the graduate level. One-third of the 2021 graduates received Latin Honors, and 13 percent of the class were legacy students.

Dr. Duncan Raines provided an update with regard to the Post-graduation Outcomes Survey for the class of 2020 which reflected that over 93% of those graduates were employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation. Depending on the comparison source, Christopher Newport outranked other comparable institutions by 13%. Our students are doing well. In this past unique year, 20,000 jobs applications were made available to our students and alumni, as compared to the 18,600 jobs posted last academic year.

Dr. Duncan Raines advised that she would be providing an update with regard to the SHIP program (Short, High Impact Project) in the near future as the 44 projects are concluding. Internships continue to remain a priority as the difference in post-graduation starting salaries for those students who completed at least one internship are significant.

Preparations continue for the 6th Launch transition program, which has been updated to better serve our incoming freshmen. The program begins in July and continues through the fall semester, and includes peer mentor assignments, workshops, an associated class and academic coaching. Conversations and collaboration with the Center for Effective Teaching have led to revisions to the curriculum to better meet the needs of our new freshmen. The program is designed to support 60 students, but can be increased with demand.

The pilot 1st Gen program will soon begin. Invitations have been extended to more than 200 families, with additional interactions to occur at Setting Sail. Twenty percent of our incoming freshmen class is 1st Gen, in keeping with recent averages.

Freshman class schedules are being finalized, taking into consideration student interests, credit reviews (AP, IB and dual enrollment) and Living and Learning Communities (clusters of courses where students living in the same general area share at least two classes). One-fourth of those Living and Learning Communities are designated as Intensive Learning Communities, having one course taught by the faculty core advisor. As resources allow, it is hoped this program will grow as students within these communities have proven to do well.

The fall tutoring scheduling is also being finalized with 33 subjects on the schedule. Depending upon demand and the hiring of new tutors, additional offerings may be made available.

In follow-up to the Board’s recent policy requiring the COVID-19 vaccination or exemption, a portal has been developed to collect this information. An outreach campaign in this regard includes texts, emails and postcards, with more than a 74% open rate on the email contacts. As of this morning, 20% of students registered for the fall semester have complied in just over nine days, with 27 of those students requesting an exemption for medical or religious reasons. The requirement follows the seven vaccination requirements already in place and required by statute. We will maintain a presence at Setting Sail to assist with compliance and are pleased with progress thus far.

Chairman Morgan commended the variety of things put in place to ensure student success at Christopher Newport University, and expressed his appreciation. He stated that our students are provided with everything needed to cross the finish line.

Freshman Admission

Dean Lange reminded the Committee of the unpredictability of enrollment numbers discussed in the April meeting. He was pleased to report that as of this morning, 1,056 new freshmen have deposited for the fall semester. Offers of admission have been extended to an additional 300 students as compared to last year, and movement is expected between now and the beginning of the fall semester. Since the May 1 deadline, 125 additional deposits have been received for a net gain of 32 students, six of whom deposited just this week. It is difficult to compare this year to past years, due to the pandemic, delayed decisions, late admits and late deposits.

Dean Lange does not expect as much of a melt this fall as compared to previous years, anticipating a three percent or less loss over the summer. Last summer alone resulted in a melt of 100 students. On a positive note, Christopher Newport University has fared better than some sister schools in the Commonwealth.

The admit rate has increased, and the caliber of students has not suffered as a result. The average GPA for admitted students holds strong at 3.8, which is in keeping with historical averages, and the average SAT score is 1,220. We are very close to the PLP goal of 400 with 393 admitted PLP freshmen. Our PLP students have an average GPA of 4.0 with an average SAT score of 1,300. African American students have increased to eight percent of the class this year, and personal interviews have been conducted with 65% of the incoming class. Our new Captains include 126 legacies and 103 Honors Program students with an average GPA of 4.3 and 1,395 average SAT score.

Dean Lange explained CNU's enrollment funnel that begins annually with 130,000+ prospective freshmen, which yields 10,000 applications initiated, and roughly 7,000 completed. From those applications, 5,900 offers of admission traditionally yield 1,200 students by fall census. He reiterated that students typically say they chose Christopher Newport because they "fall in love with the place" during their visit. The on- campus experience is what makes Christopher Newport distinctive, and the pandemic deprived our prospective students of the opportunity to do so during their college searches. Dean Lange closed his presentation optimistically looking forward to the in-person recruitment activities that have begun with loosened restrictions on- and off-campus.

Chairman Morgan extended thanks to Dean Lange, Dr. Duncan Raines and Dr. Hughes for their efforts. He found the slightly below admission levels to be remarkable given the times, and credits the team for bringing the students to campus, keeping them on campus, and looking after them to completion.

The Board extended individual thanks and recognized the efforts of this leadership team.

Student Government Association (SGA)

On behalf of the Student Government Association, Mary Romanello expressed her appreciation for being able to attend and receive important updates with regard to Christopher Newport University. She extended thanks for the hard work of leadership, faculty and staff, and said the students have been able to respond in a phenomenal way.

The SGA is working hard to orchestrate Light the Night on August 27, 2021, and is focusing on campus safety with an initiative to maintain lighting around campus. This has involved a detailed tour of campus with Christine Ledford, identifying problem areas, discussion on help tickets and plans to replace bulbs and lighting as needed. The SGA plans to push for open dialogue to stay updated on campus resources, increase involvement with Diversity and Inclusion, and maintain a presence on the Faculty Senate and Student Advisory Board.

Dr. Hughes suggested that campus tours to inspect lighting be conducted in November or December when it is dark earlier in the day or maybe even monthly.

Ms. Romanello indicated that our students are aware that the University is doing their best to keep the campus community safe and have apologized for their parents’ comments through various social media outlets.

Faculty Senate

On behalf of the Faculty Senate, Rocio Gordon thanked Dr. Duncan Raines for the various programs being developed to support incoming freshmen. She indicated that faculty had concerns about the academic strengths of the incoming class since many have been out of the classroom for an extended period due to the pandemic.

Closing

Prior to the conclusion of the committee meeting, Mr. Williams advised the committee that he will not be seeking re-election to the Board as he is planning for retirement. Chairman Morgan as well as the entire Student Life Committee thanked him for his years of service.

Adjournment

There being no further discussion, Chairman Morgan adjourned the meeting at 9:50 a.m.

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