How to overcome the dreaded "initiative fatigue"

Most faculty, staff, and administrators at your institution would likely agree: student success initiatives can be a bit much to keep track of—especially when a new one seems to crop up every month.

According to Nancy Millichap and Ana Borray of EDUCAUSE, it's not uncommon for stakeholders to experience what they call "initiative fatigue." But, the good news is that it's avoidable.

To keep stakeholders from burning out with your student success initiatives, Millichap and Borray suggest answering the following questions:

1. How does your institution define student success?

This is vital, Millichap and Borray say, since it is impossible to strive for a goal without a clear definition of what your goal actually is. They recommend "providing a clear idea of what the college or university is striving for and what the end picture looks like."

What success means to your students, in their own words

2. How do you plan to achieve it?

Millichap and Borray say it is usually up to the school's leadership to answer this question by combining the various initiatives into a big-picture vision for student success.

3. How will you measure your progress?

Millichap and Borray encourage schools to establish a specific set of metrics so that you'll be able to track how well your initiatives are working. Data can be helpful here, as long as it's directly tied to one of the initiatives contributing to your end goal.

What stops some people from taking advantage of student data tools?

4. How will you make sure everyone in your community knows about these goals and measures?

Communication is key to preventing initiative fatigue, say Millichap and Borray. You have to keep all members of your community in the loop about your vision, path, and outcomes. Tailor the updates to each specific audience, so that it will have more immediate relevance. Millichap and Borray also add that celebration and praise should be communicated across the board as your school makes progress toward its goal.

If you address these four vital questions, Millichap and Borray say you'll safeguard your stakeholders from initiative fatigue along the way.

So what does this process actually look like?

At the University of Central Florida (UCF), leaders are adamant that concurrent initiatives be linked with one another. At the moment, several student success initiatives are under way, including:

  • A new project to reimagine the first year experience;
  • UCF's Foundations of Excellence transfer initiative;
  • Participation in the Gallup-Purdue index; and
  • Rolling out the EAB Student Success Collaborative.

According to Maribeth Ehasz, the vice president of student development and enrollment services at UCF, all of the initiatives use the same goals and system of measurements.

To illustrate how the various initiatives work together, Ehasz and her colleague Elizabeth Dooley, the vice provost for teaching and learning and the dean of the college of undergraduate studies, have created a graph which visually illustrates each initiative's role.

Occasionally, Dooley and Ehasz go so far as to combine meetings for the different initiatives to hammer the point home: they're all connected.

Millichap and Borray say student success initiatives are all part of an ongoing circle. It's when stakeholders view them as mutually exclusive, one-after-the-other burdens that they start to experience the dreaded initiative fatigue (Millichap/Borray, EdSurge, 5/13).

3 strategies to engage faculty in your student success initiatives

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