Posted on January 5th in General

Set SMART Goals for College Completion in 2018

Each semester, the Upsilon Delta Chapter at Southwest Tennessee Community College (STCC) in Memphis rolls out its Commit to Complete banner for the students on its campus to sign. But this isn’t an empty pledge; it’s a SMART one.

The chapter’s unique pledge is actually a seven-question survey that asks students to make goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-bound — SMART. Goals are incorporated by asking a student when he or she will complete a certain number of courses. Responses are multiple choice so the student has concrete options to consider, and the survey continues to ask questions that require setting goals over a longer range.

“Through this thoughtful process, we hope the student feels a strengthened sense of resolve and a determination to complete the steps ahead,” said Dr. Joan McGrory, chapter advisor. “We realized early on that we wanted the pledge to be meaningful. We wanted that student to think about the long game and have a play book to earn the win.”

The commitment campaign has been so successful that, in fall 2017, it became the chapter’s College Project. It is now a collaboration between the Student Affairs and Academic Affairs departments and is sponsored by the Upsilon Delta Chapter and the Student Development, Advisor & Academic Support, and Career Services departments.

“We are working together to promote awareness using the previous pledge and asking students who make the commitment to sign a banner that will hang on their respective campus locations to remind each student of their commitment and inspire others to join as we ‘Commit to Complete,’ ” McGrory said.

The college has also connected the campaign with its objectives as an Achieving the Dream college to improve student success and retention. From November 7 through December 7, 2017, approximately 400 students — 5 percent of the population — engaged in the “Commit to Complete” campaign, and leaders are expecting greater results this spring.

“We believe this is an excellent retention and student success initiative, and if we can gain the commitment of 10-20 percent of our student population to commit to complete during each academic year, our expectations for higher graduation rates will be met and, more importantly, students’ lives will truly be transformed,” said. Dr. Jacqueline Taylor, executive director of retention and student success at STCC.

The college also recently launched a new academic and career advising model that requires its advisors to engage students in the completion conversation. And, it is increasing its mentoring culture to spark completion conversations between mentors and their mentees.

All students who complete the pledge survey are entered into a raffle for one of two $25 gift cards to the college bookstore.

“My college degree is in speech and theater — theater mostly — and getting my degree will be an amazing accomplishment,” said Jonathan Dean, who received one of the gift cards. “I do my very best and try to work as hard as possible to show great dedication to what I want to achieve in the theater field. I know I can get there as long as I set my mind to what I want and prepare for my future.”

In 2017, the Upsilon Delta Chapter combined its “Pledge to Complete” campaign with another popular one: its “Spot a Kappan” challenge. For a week, members collect signatures from students who are current PTK members or who learn about PTK.

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