Beyond creating pathways to gainful employment for its 860 Native American students, United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) aims to empower students as leaders in the workplace and in the community. To achieve this vision, UTTC recognizes the importance of providing students with timely access to the individualized supports they require to thrive. But the college found identifying each student’s needs early in their academic experience challenging.
As a participating college in the Achieving the Dream (ATD) Serving Native American Students with Holistic Student Supports Project, UTTC is working closely with ATD to develop a comprehensive Academic Success Plan. A new student intake survey is the first step of this plan. This survey enables the college to quickly and thoroughly understand each new student’s situation, connect them with the services needed to succeed, and build the foundation for a solid student-advisor relationship.
Elevating the new-student voice
“We were learning crucial information about our students when they were well into their academic career,” says UTTC’s vice president for academic affairs, Lisa Azure. “It’s critical for us to know more about our students right from the start, affording us more time to assist with resources.”
To that end, UTTC developed an intake survey that invites new students to articulate their own strengths, potential challenges, and other perspectives of interest to the college. With these insights in place, UTTC advisors can home in on the needs of each individual student, rather than prescribing broad directions and next steps.
“Our faculty advisors work to build reciprocal relationships of trust and respect with our students,” Azure explains. “We have always made considerable effort to get to know our students, and this intake survey helps us do that even better and faster. It allows us as a campus to do what we can to meet the needs of our students during that critical first semester, to create a culture of success by addressing some of the challenges our students may be experiencing.”
Delving deep for insights
The new student intake survey includes questions designed to gather both general information and tailored insights from UTTC’s student population. For example, since Native Americans define kinship broadly to include everyone in band, clan, and tribe, the survey asks students to indicate if they are caretakers for a family member or friend. In addition, the survey asks about factors such as certificate/degree completion goals, employment, food insecurity issues, housing and transportation concerns, and whether the student has access to reliable networks for support and assistance.
“Our goal is to support the student early and seamlessly.”
Given that emailed surveys often go uncompleted, UTTC has found success by having the students meet with their first-year advisor in person to complete the intake survey. In contrast to virtual meetings, says Azure, these face-to-face conversations promote comfortability and allow both students and advisors to reach deeper insights into their well-being. “The intake survey allows us to work with the students to develop a personal plan of action, created by them so they have ownership, based on what they identify as their needs.”
Using data to drive individual action plans
While the insights gleaned from UTTC’s intake survey have proven extremely valuable for first-year advisors, their usefulness extends throughout each student’s academic lifecycle. By selectively sharing pertinent information with additional advisors, UTTC can enlist faculty, academic, and wellness support resources based on each individual student’s needs.
“With the information collected, our entire Student Services team works to develop and improve the services and experiences delivered to our students,” Azure explains. “Our goal is to support the student early and seamlessly and allow for relational interactions with our support staff.”
About United Tribes Technical College
A nonprofit corporation owned and governed by the five Indian tribes located in the state of North Dakota, UTTC is one of the six Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) active in the Serving Native American Students with Holistic Student Supports Project focused on transforming the student experience through a holistic student supports redesign. Through this engagement with Achieving the Dream, UTTC along with the other TCUs receive customized coaching, subgrants, and opportunities to engage with the others in the cohort as a community of practice to strengthen their capacity to better serve students in their communities. Learn more about United Tribes Technical College and ATD’s role in supporting student success at TCUs.