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Jim,

I've been on committees for retention and so concerned about the issue for
the last several years.  From my experience the key to retention is
developing a sense of belonging, of being part of a valued larger whole.
This needs to happen in the first few weeks of school.  There are lots of
ways to make that happen for a person but the ones I see having the best
effects where I have taught have been: membership in an organization on
campus that is active in service and "meaningful work" ie campus jobs. As
resource and writing directors we can have an effect on retention in
student assistant and tutor jobs that are often the most meaningful jobs on
campus.  The difficulty in this is that the students who are most at-risk
for attrition are first-year students who most often do not have the skills
or academic development to fill those positions.  I often hire first-years
for clerical support and then ease them into other jobs as their skills
develop.  I sure hope this is the kind of retention you were asking about.

Laura Symons
Academic Reource Center
Sweet Briar College
Sweet Briar, Virginia 24595
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804-381-6378

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