Meeting Dr. Tinto

by Marci Rockey / Sep 29, 2015

Who is your academic hero? The person most often cited in your research? The person whose theories you subscribe to in your work with and for students? For me, that is Dr. Vincent Tinto and in preparation to co-author an upcoming OCCRL brief on first-year experience in the community college, I had the opportunity to meet him in person at the Midwest First-Year Conference hosted at Waubonsee Community College on Friday, September 25.

Dr. Tinto’s keynote presentation entitled “Student Success does not Arise by Chance” gets to the core of first-year student support. Highlighting research-based practices, Dr. Tinto outlines four components that create institutional environments that foster student success. These include 1) clear expectations, 2) academic and social support, 3) assessment and feedback and 4) high quality engagement. As institutions seek to create this environment, Dr. Tinto encouraged audience members to remember that “students don’t seek to be retained, they seek to persist.”

Dr. Tinto also advised institutions not to give up prematurely on student success initiatives as it often takes three to five years to show results, especially if students are self-selecting to participate. Particularly exciting for community college advocates, Dr. Tinto included numerous video clips of community college student interviews from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement providing personal stories of how their institutions have supported them.

In addition to Dr. Tinto’s keynote, Rico Reed from the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition addressed the audience on current campus trends and available resources to support professionals. Outside of sessions related to various aspects of first-year experience programs; hot topics included assessment, faculty development, institutional buy-in and support for first-year initiatives, engaging students and supporting students with unique characteristics and challenges.

In closing, Dr. Tinto’s words offer food for thought as we look toward the future of higher education, “The point of retention is not completion, it’s learning. What is completion without learning?”

Marci Rockey is a Graduate Research Assistant at OCCRL and Higher Education doctoral student at UIUC. She has previously served as a student services administrator in Illinois community colleges. Her research interests include community college student transition and retention and rural student access and success in higher education.