A Proactive Approach

On-campus students who miss class will hear from Alex Karlheim ’18M, coordinator of academic initiatives and student success. 

In this newly-created position, Karlheim provides outreach and support to the more than 1,600 students who live in campus housing. 

Ship’s staff always has supported campus residents, but now they are being more intentional and proactive about it. Karlheim wants students to adjust and thrive in campus life. One way she achieves this is by tracking class attendance for absenteeism and following up with the appropriate resident advisors.

The most common reason students missed class? They overslept. Sometimes illness is to blame. One student explained that her family pet died, so she spent a few days at home to grieve. Missed classes also could indicate that a student intends to drop the class. 

Karlheim also monitors students during registration. Neglecting to register for the next semester’s courses could indicate that a student intends to drop out of college. 

“Once we’ve identified the need, we’re very willing to direct or even accompany students to the right place on campus to get assistance,” she said. “If you’re sick, I can connect you to Etter Health Center. If you want to drop a class, I will make sure the student has talked to an advisor or knows about the Learning Center.” 

Not all students are willing to ask for help, which makes intervention even more important, she said. “In the past, we just assumed that when students began college, they were ready. Some students are, but not all are. Or, they may be ready academically, but not emotionally.”

Resident advisors and residence hall directors play an important role. They are encouraged to interact with students, and form a genuine relationship with them while respecting professional boundaries. 

“We don’t want students to think of the RA as someone who can get them in trouble, but as someone who can be a helpful resource,” Karlheim said. 

In all, Ship staff completed 3,200 interactions with students during the 2018-19 school year.