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Symposium Celebrates Student Success Efforts Across Campus

From left: Dr. Hillary Procknow, Dr. Jeff Freels, Vanessa Garcia, Michelle J. Shanks and Dr. Lori Holleran Steiker

During the Fall 2023 Student Success Symposium, the Office of Student Success hosted faculty and staff from across campus to engage in a series of information sessions and to announce the newest recipients of the Student Success Champion and Student Success Advocate awards.

The symposium kicked off with a welcome from Undergraduate College Assistant Dean Hillary Procknow, PhD. Dr. Procknow discussed the decade of unprecedented gains in student success, highlighting this year’s 74.5% four-year graduation rate for undergraduate students.

“That graduation rate is something we should really celebrate and be proud of,” added Richard J. Reddick, Ed.D, senior vice provost and dean of Undergraduate College, who delivered the keynote address at the event.

During his presentation, Dr. Reddick, 2020 recipient of the Student Success Champion award, discussed themes from his new book, Restorative Resistance in Higher Education: Leading in an Era of Racial Awakening and Reckoning, including the intersections of work and identity, the notion of cultural taxation and how university partners can sustainably work toward equity and safety for all students. Dr. Reddick, who is a “Jeopardy!” champion, concluded the keynote in high spirits with his own, audience-inclusive version of the game show.

In the concurrent sessions that followed, attendees had the opportunity to attend the introduction of Vick Advising Excellence academic advisor training; an overview of the new financial aid management application; or a discussion of success strategies to maintain student well-being. After a break, faculty and staff returned for sessions focused on Senate Bill 17; utilizing protective factors to improve student environments; and the impact of the Equity is Excellence mini-grant program.

The symposium drew to a close on a celebratory note, with a mocktail mixer presented by SHIFT and a ceremony honoring outstanding staff and faculty members who have worked tirelessly to help students succeed on the Forty Acres.

2023 Student Success Champion: Michelle J. Shanks

Michelle J. Shanks, senior student program coordinator for First-Gen Longhorns and the Longhorn Link Program (SSS) in the Center for Leadership and Learning (CLL), was named Student Success Champion, particularly for her work supporting first-generation students on campus.

“Many times, we find that our first-gen students are nervous to ask for help or may not even know where to start when they are having an issue on campus. When a student leaves a meeting with Michelle, they leave feeling relieved that they are not alone, helped by someone who truly cares and with the right resource to help their situation,” her nominator noted.

2023 Student Success Advocate: Jeff Freels, PhD

Dr. Jeff Freels, director of academic policy and research for Strategic Academic Initiatives, received the Student Success Advocate award after moderating the “Evaluating Effectiveness and Impact: Lessons from the Equity is Excellence Mini-Grant Program” panel earlier in the day.

His nominator wrote extensively about his “persistent, long-term and effective behind-the-scenes work on behalf of students,” including his work with Canvas data, his contributions to the Longhorns Online website that was launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and serving as principal investigator for two student success grants — all in addition to teaching Data Analytics in Contemporary Society for UT’S Liberal Arts Honors Program.

“We are so fortunate to work on a campus where our colleagues in every office and in every aspect of the university join in the work that is student success,” said Dr. Procknow. “I couldn’t be happier to have had the privilege of working with both Michelle and Jeff. It is an honor to be able to recognize them in front of our peers.”

For more information on the Student Success Champion and Advocate awards, as well as the Student Success Symposium in general, visit studentsuccess.utexas.edu/symposium.