Firm Foundations

Marquette’s Student Success Initiative supports students from their first days on campus to promote their long-term success. A vibrant new center will elevate this promising effort.

First-year student Samantha Arellano checks in with her navigator, Brian Troyer, dean of undergraduate admissions.

In predicting which students successfully navigate college — and which falter — research shows that experiences in the first nine weeks on campus are crucial. To help undergraduates establish firm footings, Marquette’s year-old Student Success Initiative seeks to reach students early with tailored resources and in-person navigators who answer questions and make timely referrals. By better serving students, Marquette aims to boost its six-year graduation rate to 90% from 83% in 2020-2021.

As a navigator in the program’s pilot last fall, Brian Troyer, dean of undergraduate admissions, was assigned 10 first-year students, all of them commuters. In their early meetings with him, students voiced concerns about typical issues such as how to change majors. “But as time went by, their biggest needs were for socialization and engagement with the Marquette community,” Troyer says. “The program creates opportunities for students to connect with each other and get a sense of the opportunities that exist at Marquette.”

Samantha Arellano was one of the students assigned to Troyer. As a commuter, she had the usual new-student concerns, plus issues finding transportation, missing evening activities and squeezing in library visits. “I felt overwhelmed and not very welcome,” she relates.

She was in danger of dropping out, but meetings with Troyer changed all that. “I had someone to talk to, to encourage me to try new things and introduce me to other commuter students.” A few months later, she has campus jobs as a tour guide and community ambassador, has participated in the Dreamers Gala in support of immigrant students, and has explored starting a sorority. “My biggest goal is to make an impact at Marquette,” she says.

Marquette is ready to build on the pilot’s success — in a big way. A $15 million gift from Marcus Lemonis, Arts ’95, star of CNBC’s The Profit and CEO of Camping World, and his wife, Bobbi, will transform the Wisconsin Avenue-frontage of Memorial Library into the Lemonis Center for Student Success. Acting as a welcoming hub for the program, the center will connect students with a network of advisers, mentors and resources from the moment they step on campus until they graduate. It will also employ innovative technology and groundbreaking research to support students as they develop the skills and resilience to overcome challenges that can range from feeling disconnected and anxious to experiencing academic or financial setbacks.

A major renovation will convert part of Marquette’s Memorial Library building into the Lemonis Center for Student Success.

Dr. Kimo Ah Yun, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, extolled the “sense of belonging” that students will feel when they enter the inclusive new center, and emphasized potential financial benefits for students too. “We have an opportunity to take a lead role in lowering student debt by reducing the time it takes students to graduate,” Ah Yun says. “Our Student Success Initiative is shining a light on ways to substantially improve retention and graduation rates. The support services housed in the Lemonis Center will elevate those initiatives.”

Says Dr. John Su, vice provost for academic affairs and student success, “We want every student to feel they have a champion on campus as they develop their sense of agency and self-efficacy starting in their first semester.”

— reported by Guy Fiorita