Star program available to students, helps get them back on track

Shaun Collins, Washburn Review

“Life finds a way,” said Dr. Ian Malcolm in “Jurassic Park.”

If he was talking about life finding a way to interfere with a student’s schoolwork, he was 110 percent accurate.  Students have jobs (some more than one), family obligations, financial issues and social dilemmas to balance with classes, tests and projects.  Keeping up academically would be a challenge for anyone with those time constraints. 

Add that mix to a handful of campus activities such as Greek life, clubs and organizations and the requirements they have.  Now imagine a freshman student who’s trying to move from the structured regiment of high school to the more free-base atmosphere of a university in the middle of all that, and it becomes a recipe for disaster.

Occasionally students find themselves in the middle of that maelstrom.  Grades start to slip, then tumble into the abyss.  Many feel that once that slide starts there’s no way back.

There is now a program on campus specifically designed to help assist students that may have stumbled with their GPA, or feel like they’re about to.

The Students Taking Academic Responsibility program is an online workshop designed to help students return to good academic standing.  The program started last year, and any student on an academic probation is required to complete the program in order to enroll the next semester.

John Dahlstrand, the assistant dean of student success, which includes the academic advising office, tutoring and writing programs at Mabee library and the first year experience program wants to stress the importance of this program.

“We recognize students get put on probation for a number of reasons,” said Dahlstrand. “We wanted to take a proactive step and create a series of online modules to help them take responsibility to develop study skills, strategies and ultimately an action plan they can feel good about that they’ve created so they can take the necessary steps to improve their academic performance.”

If a student’s GPA falls below 2.0, they will be required to participate in the program before getting off academic                     probation, but students can be proactive as well, and elect to take advantage of the safety net these programs provide.

“The courses I took I knew they would be difficult, but I didn’t know that it would be that difficult,”  said a sophomore currently in the STAR Program.  “I thought I could handle it, but I think I should have used more resources than I did.”

There are four required steps or modules in the STAR program. The first requires the student to become familiar with the Washburn Academic Probation, Suspension and Reinstatement Policy.  Next, are challenges to success. Completing an assessment that asks the student to explore study skills, personal skills, career and major skills, and the resources to use and focus on the challenges to success.

The third module includes tasks about prioritizing responsibilities, setting goals and reallocating time spent.  Finally the student creates the action plan that includes elements from each of the previous three modules. The deadline for creating this plan is set for the fifth week of the semester, to allow the student to “right the ship.”

The program is discrete, but the university encourages students not to feel embarrassed about being involved in the program.

“Students shouldn’t feel ashamed, either,” said Dahlstrand. “The transition from high school to college as a first semester student is overwhelming. But even if students start off strong, other life circumstances get in the way.  We recognize there’s a number of reasons students’ grades slip, and we also know it’s not because of academic ability or intellect, sometimes it’s just life circumstances that get in the way.”

According to Dahlstrand the top reason that students mess up is because of poor time management. The second reason is motivation.

“I wish I would have done it last semester,” said the student in the program.  “Just again, that schedule. If I was able to follow that schedule last semester I think I would have done better.  If you realize that you are struggling you should go seek out the STAR Program.”

Students can access STAR via their MyWashburn account on the MyCourses tab or talk to their academic advisor.

 “[The STAR Program] helped me with my time management this semester,” said the student. “It kind of helped me set up a weekly schedule and being able to use that, I’m able to go to the library more, go to the writing center.”