College can be a difficult time for many people. Students face a variety of challenges throughout their college career, and sometimes those challenges prove to be too much for them to overcome alone. In such instances, Kris Clarkson, Director of Student Life, hopes to be able to help.
The student affairs department works toward providing early intervention and support to struggling and at risk students. The office provides a notice of concern form that students, faculty or staff can fill out on behalf of any person they believe to potentially be at risk, or alternatively, students can seek assistance themselves from the student affairs office.
According to Clarkson, last year the department received around 200 referrals for students.
“We’re going to assume that these students are at risk,” Clarkson said. “They may be dealing with some unforeseen challenge or circumstance, so in some ways you would assume that they are at higher risk of attrition or dropping out. We like to think we can help them manage, and sometimes it’s just helping them navigate through the bureaucracy of ISU.”
The system tracks first time, full time degree seeking students. Of all those students, there is normally a 70 percent retention rate from fall to fall. Out of the 200 students students referred to the department for early intervention last year, there was a 75 percent retention rate.
“Early intervention and assistance is an effective retention tool,” Clarkson said.
Intervention and support such as this becomes even more important in times of tragedy, such as the recent mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.
The department of student affairs sent out a mass email directly after the tragedy encouraging students to use the university’s free counseling and seek any help they needed.
Clarkson received a tip from a faculty member that a student had been in attendance of the festival. He then reached out to the student to offer any assistance. Eventually, he became aware of three students that had been at the concert, one from the Idaho Falls campus. Clarkson said he and the rest of the student affairs department worked with faculty members to give those students as much help as possible.
“It’s hard for us to imagine,” he said. “These aren’t students that happened to be there off on the sideline; they were right in the thick of it. So it’s really, really difficult for them. But they’ve made arrangements with their faculty to do assignments from home and do whatever they need.”
He added that he hopes to potentially look into creating a group therapy session with veteran students and other students potentially traumatized by gun violence in a continuing effort to assist those students.