University Business Honors SIUE as a Model of Excellence

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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is one of 10 colleges and universities nationwide being honored by University Business magazine in its Spring 2015 Models of Excellence recognition program.

Kara Shustrin

SIUE’s early implementation of designated study hours and peer/mentor interaction is exemplary

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is one of 10 colleges and universities nationwide being honored by University Business magazine in its Spring 2015 Models of Excellence recognition program.

Sponsored by Higher One, a leader in providing financial services and data analytics to more than 1,900 college and university campuses across the U.S., the Models of Excellence program recognizes innovative approaches to encouraging and nurturing student success on campus.

“Too often, universities intervene with extra help after a student has fallen behind,” says University Business Senior Editor Tim Goral. “SIUE’s early implementation of designated study hours and peer/mentor interaction is exemplary.”

Always concerned about retention, SIUE has recently turned its attention to persistence and graduation rates of specific groups of students. SIUE noticed that students at greater risk of dropping out had some common characteristics, including greater financial need, being academically underprepared and being the first in their families to attend college. Plus, the percentage of first generation college students is rising. This year, of the approximately 2,000 freshman at SIUE, more than 25 percent are first generation students. That discovery led to the creation of SIUE 1st, a pilot support network designed specifically for first-generation college students.

The goal of SIUE 1st is to help first generation students navigate the college environment and forge connections. Combining programs, support services and an assigned peer mentor, SIUE 1st is currently serving its inaugural group of 22 freshmen.

Kara Shustrin, program specialist in student affairs, explained that two big pieces are the mentors and the weekly required study hours. Six peer mentors, who are all successful first generation SIUE students, who are active on campus, are key to the success of the program.

“The number one predictor of social integration is peer connections, which impacts retention,” Shustrin said. “The mentors connect one-on-one with their students at least once a month and online through Facebook and motivational group text messages.”

Good study habits are also critical for success in college and often first generation students enter without a solid foundation. SIUE 1st aims to provide these new skills through five required study hours each week, which are proctored by peer mentors. In addition to encouraging participants to ask questions of the mentors, these sessions are also an opportunity for the students to interact with each other. On top of weekly study sessions, SIUE 1st students also must attend two approved activities per semester, which are academic and career related.

In its first year, there are signs that SIUE 1st is already a success. Although the program participants as a group had lower average ACT scores coming into college, they achieved slightly higher GPAs than first generation freshmen who aren’t participating in the program, according to Shustrin.

“It’s easy to be anonymous at a larger school,” said Shustrin. “Our goal is to get first generation students connected.”

In addition to SIUE, Spring 2015 Models of Excellence honorees include: LDS Business College (Salt Lake City); Mitchell Technical Institute (Mitchell, S.D.); Central Piedmont Community College (Charlotte); Indiana University; Paul Smith’s College (Paul Smiths, N.Y.); University of Baltimore (Md.); University of South Carolina; William Rainey Harper College (Palatine, Ill.); and Eastern Kentucky University.

“The Spring 2015 Models of Excellence honorees demonstrate an admirable dedication to student success, as well as a deep understanding of how to best utilize campus resources,” said Andrew Crawford, senior vice president of campus services and operations at Higher One. “We are pleased to recognize their efforts alongside University Business.”

Launched this year, Models of Excellence is a national recognition program which honors colleges and universities that have implemented innovative, effective and inter-departmental initiatives that are bolstering student success. The program is sponsored by Higher One, which works closely with colleges and universities by allocating resources more efficiently to provide a higher quality of service and using data to impact success with a focus on empowering students.

About University Business

University Business is the leading publication for senior managers at colleges and universities throughout the U.S., reaching 75,000 leaders who manage enrollment, technology, business, finance, facilities and academic affairs. More information is available at

About Higher One

Higher One partners with colleges and universities to lower their administrative costs and to improve graduation rates. It provides a broad array of payment, refund disbursement and data analytics and management tools to institutions that help them save money and enhance institutional effectiveness. For students, it offers financial literacy programs and convenient, flexible and affordable transaction options to help them manage their finances. Higher One’s products and services support more than 1,900 schools and 13 million enrolled students. For more information, visit

About SIUE
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville provides students with a high quality, affordable education that prepares them for successful careers and lives of purpose. Built on the foundation of a broad-based liberal education, and enhanced by hands-on research and real-world experiences, the academic preparation SIUE students receive equips them to thrive in the global marketplace and make our communities better places to live. Situated on 2,660 acres of beautiful woodland atop the bluffs overlooking the natural beauty of the Mississippi River’s rich bottomland and only a short drive from downtown St. Louis, the SIUE campus is home to a diverse student body of nearly 14,000.

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