Board of Visitors

Student Life Committee Meeting February 4, 2022

Present from the board

  • Judy Wason, Acting Committee Chair
  • Regina Brayboy
  • Sean Miller
  • Lee Vreeland
  • Ella Ward

Present from Administration, Faculty, and Students

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

Not in attendance

  • Steven Kast
  • Gabe Morgan

Call to Order: As Chairman Morgan was not able to attend the meeting, Acting Committee Chair Judy Wason called the meeting to order at 8:36 a.m.

Approval of Minutes:

Dr. Ella Ward motioned to accept the minutes from the September 2021 Student Life Committee meeting, with Regina Brayboy seconding the motion.

Freshman Admission

Rob Lange began by discussing the record number of visitors registered for the first President’s Leadership and Honors Visit Day last Saturday, January 24, 2022, which had been rescheduled due to snow. This is a good indicator that demand for the on-campus recruitment experience is returning, which is very important in terms of yield. As of the February 1 application deadline, in addition to late regular decision applications, more applications have been received as compared to this same deadline in 2020. The admission process begins with identifying roughly 150,000 prospective students during their sophomore or junior year of high school, yielding application numbers and, then finally admitting students. The applications received, offers of admission extended and academic profiles of those applicants are strong. Our goal is to have a minimum of 1,150 freshmen, with continued efforts to return to the pre-pandemic freshman class size of 1,200 admitted students.

Dean Lange provided an update on the recruitment initiative in partnership with the enrollment marketing firm and on tracking behaviors of prospects and applicants in the recruitment process to differentiate our messaging and prioritize resources. In addition, he discussed our campus-based initiative, elevating student engagement at the department level. Dean Lange spoke to the Faculty Senate, Undergraduate Admissions Committee, Office of Communications and Public Relations and others regarding what is being and can be done at the department level to highlight the various academic departments between now and May 1, while families are making their final decisions prior to deposits. Creative ideas are being discussed with two timeframes in mind. The first window will begin directly after regular decisions are sent. Typically, this happens on March 15, but the Office of Admission is hoping to begin sending decisions by February 15. From the time decisions are mailed through Admitted Freshmen Days, departments will be highlighted as well as labs utilizing mock classes, allowing families to engage with individual academic departments in addition to the Office of Admission with a focus on demonstrating what we offer--small classes, no teaching assistants and faculty engagement. The second window, between the second Admitted Freshman Day, April 9 and May 1, will involve families who are participating in campus tours at this late date, with consideration given to what can be done to enhance their on-campus experience. In addition, we are elevating the opportunities that are already in process and may be open to the public such as PAIDEA, where many of the departments are represented, invitations to capstone presentations, sporting events, mock classes and lunches with faculty members. Many of these activities are aimed at current students but could easily engage admitted families. The Office of Admission is looking for department-specific activities to demonstrate what we advertise. Tours will be offered over Easter weekend, which we have not typically done, in conjunction with other engaging activities in an effort to boost campus visits. Our goal is to allow our admitted students to experience what we have to offer. Many conversations are taking place to brainstorm about additional things we can do to assist with the decision-making process.

Dean Lange indicated a sense of urgency in engagement of our admitted student population. The applications are coming in, and opportunities for these admitted students to visit campus and experience all that Christopher Newport University has to offer will make a difference.

Enrollment and Student Success

Dr. Lisa Duncan Raines welcomed the Committee, and provided a student vaccination update. Last semester, 100% of our students complied with the COVID vaccination requirement, with 94% of them fully vaccinated having received two doses, and the remaining six percent having an approved medical or religious exemption on file. In preparation for this semester, our student portal was updated to accept booster information, with an initial deadline of February 15, 2022 for compliance. Since that time, vaccination requirements have been updated, making the student portal entry no longer a requirement. Even with this requirement removed, as of February 3, 2022, 46% of our students have provided booster documentation. The portal will remain open for students who want to voluntarily provide that information.

To best serve our students, support service offerings continue both in-person and in virtual formats. Our students returned to campus this academic year both excited and engaged as evidenced by the strong outreach numbers during the fall semester to include greater than 2,800 tutoring appointments and nearly 2,000 academic coaching appointments, reflecting a 30% increase as compared to the previous two fall semesters. When asked about their experience with peer tutoring, our students reported positive experiences and improvements in the final grades of the classes for which they received tutoring. These sessions, offered both individually and in groups, include more than 100 courses spanning 30 disciplines. Our peer mentors continue to meet weekly with their students and will continue to do so for the remainder of the academic year.

With consideration given to the adjustments to the early part of the spring calendar, Signing Day has been rescheduled for February 22 and will take place throughout the Paul and Rosemary Trible Library following safety protocols much like last year’s successful event. Faculty from 19 academic departments representing 45 majors will be interacting with our students in their professional attire as they officially declare their major. Dr. Duncan Raines mentioned that in recent years parents have been known to attend the event as well. Our hope for next year is to return Signing Day to the Ballroom with increased involvement from across campus to allow our students the opportunity to connect in even greater numbers with our Christopher Newport community.

Dr. Duncan Raines was pleased to report that over 32,000 jobs were approved in our online platform last semester. Engagement with the Career Center included individual meetings with more than 2,200 students, with 900 students participating in recruitment events, reflecting a 10% increase over the last two fall semesters. Efforts continue to develop four-year plans for students to help guide their years on campus and beyond.

The annual Spring Jobs and Internship Fair is scheduled for February 16 and 17, 2022, with the first day of the event downsized and in-person in the David Student Union Ballroom, and the second day in a virtual format to maximize potential contacts for our students. The CIA Contracts Division is typically represented at our fairs, but for the first time, the CIA Operations Division will also be participating. This will be especially exciting for our students as they have historically been very interested in this agency.

Dr. Duncan Raines reported that advising and registration will begin next month, followed by commencement at the end of spring semester. Currently, we anticipate 982 degree conferrals, 882 of which are undergraduate and 100 are graduate. When combined with our August and December degree conferrals, this academic year will yield approximately 1,197 graduates.

With regard to the Community Captains program, Dr. Duncan Raines reported that 19 members of the first cohort finished their first semester of enrollment in the fall semester, with all 19 returning for the spring semester, three of whom made Dean’s List. Cohort 2 consists of 60 high school students from all six Newport News public high schools, and 23 students from Cohort 2 are enrolled in Elementary Statistics or the First-year Writing Seminar at Christopher Newport this semester. Cohort 3 will be welcomed on campus Saturday, February 5, with approximately 61 students, parents and high school counselors registered to attend. Cohort 1 has also been invited to participate to share experiences and connect with their peers. Later this semester, Cohorts 2 and 3 will participate in “A Day in the Life” to experience the life of Christopher Newport students on campus. The recruiting process for Cohort 4 will begin in April, and additional programs are scheduled throughout the semester.

Student Affairs

Dr. Kevin Hughes began by indicating that actions taken in the fall helped to prepare our campus for the spring. The delayed start of in-person classes and staggered returns to residence halls de-densified campus when virus numbers were higher, allowing for a safe return to campus life while preventing a surge in numbers. Roughly 700 of our upperclassmen returned to campus early as their housing contracts are 10-12 month leases. Additional students were phased in to include approximately 125 student athletes and 100 theatre students, who returned right after winter break to prepare for their season and production respectively. Some of our student workers returned early as they are heavily utilized in terms of campus operations.

Dr. Hughes reported continued efforts to track numbers, noting that from January 1 through today, there have been 150 students who have tested positive for COVID, half of whom tested positive at home and were not on campus. He compared a one-day high during the last spring semester as exceeding the month of January 2022 entirely in terms of positive cases. Crediting the improved numbers to all of the University’s efforts in terms of vaccinations, boosters, de-densification, etc. Dr. Hughes reminded the Committee that we must learn to live with the virus. Students have been encouraged to have a back-up plan in the event of illness. Currently 20 students have reported exposures and are quarantining, six of whom are on campus with most returning home to quarantine.

Dr. Hughes reported that the University will be hosting a booster clinic on February 10 in the Auxiliary Gym for faculty, staff and students, and possibly opening up to family members of our faculty and staff. The University continues to provide testing for students, three days per week on campus through a contractor and two days per week at the Riverside Clinic. Continued testing will be provided to students in need, and resources will be utilized based on need. If students need to get tested because they are symptomatic or have been exposed, options will be available to them. Currently, there are roughly 300 slots per week available for testing which has been more than enough. Recognizing there are a limited quantity of tests available, protocol is in place to prioritize testing to students who are symptomatic in the event of a surge, followed by students who have been exposed and then, finally, students who request testing.

Dr. Hughes addressed the successful investment the University has made in leadership with our students, encouraging competitions and sending them to conferences. He shared feedback received from two of our students who had attended a leadership conference on resiliency at the Naval Academy, specifically what the event meant to them personally. One of the students shared how “important it was to understand the small day-to-day decisions in morality and lifestyle habits and doing the harder thing would have on my future endeavors.” The second student said, “When faced with an immense challenge as a leader, there is no room for stasis. Every second that a leader spends failing to give back because they are sad or downhearted not only negatively affects the mission, but the individual followers as well.” These are just examples of the investment we are making in our students.

Student Government Association (SGA)

Mary Romanello reflected on the return to campus for the spring semester with deep appreciation for the University’s efforts to mitigate the virus on campus. While students were stressed during the first couple of weeks and wanting to get back to campus life, many of them contracted the virus during that time and needed time to recover. For the students who returned to campus, appreciation was expressed for meals plans and dining hall availability. The students are overall delighted to return to in-person as this is “why we are here.” Mary reported that students are feeling a sense of normalcy with in-person classes, clubs and organizations in full swing, and in-person events scheduled throughout the semester. While Greek Life recruitment was handled virtually, Bid Day was an in-person success. With in-person focused planning, efforts are underway with regard to the Captains Ball, Week of Wellness and Relay for Life.

CAB is holding weekly events, as reflected on the student programming calendar. Our SGA is working to advocate for safety on campus with lighting proposals and more in addition to hosting the Undergraduate Research Conference in March. The Student Honor Council has an initiative in place to train staff as cases are becoming more complex. The new Honor Council member class is the most diverse to date in terms of backgrounds, race, gender and involvements on campus. The Captain’s Log is active, and a town hall meeting is scheduled for this semester to reflect on fall and spring initiatives. Spring scheduling includes a second day of service with the Office of Community Engagement as well as a Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day on March 25, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. in the DSU Breezeway, with everyone invited. Both the President and Dean Hughes have been supportive in their hosting of this celebration. Efforts are being made to highlight mental health issues with platforms for students to participate anonymously. Student organizations are very busy in general.

Closing

Ms. Wason asked Dr. Hughes about the impact of the Governor’s change with regard to vaccinations. As many of our students are already fully vaccinated, Dr. Hughes does not anticipate any issues and is hopeful that the COVID vaccination will be added to the list of required vaccinations. He indicated the University would adjust to manage bad flu and COVID seasons.

Dean Lange provided input with regard to the families his office encounters, and said emotions relating to the vaccination requirement are mixed, spanning the spectrum in terms of agreement.

Ms. Wason asked Dean Lange for input on the increase in numbers of students choosing not to go to college. Stating that the contraction in students has been a national phenomenon, Dean Lange indicated there was a myriad of reasons students were making this decision.

Adjournment: There being no further discussion, Dr. Ward motioned to adjourn the meeting, and Dr. Vreeland provided the second. Acting Committee Chair Wason adjourned the meeting at 9:24 a.m.

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