The recently launched Raider Success Hub takes a proactive approach to ensuring Texas Tech students have access to resources and people they need.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought not only a significant disruption to higher education's typical way of doing business, but it also provided the opportunity to evaluate, recalibrate and adjust operational processes and procedures.
At Texas Tech University, it was a chance to enhance the student experience through a more intentionally designed system of proactive advocacy. Certainly, the pandemic amplified issues such as increased isolation and associated impacts on mental health, but Texas Tech's student population also has grown dramatically over the past decade. Together, the two factors gave university officials motivation to assess where Texas Tech was and work to cast a bold vision of innovation in reimagining aspects of the student experience.
The result is the Raider Success Hub, launched last spring and which offers students a constellation of support resources to help them transition from incoming first-year student to job-market bound graduate, thriving all along the way. The hub is designed to enhance the educational experience at Texas Tech by connecting academic success staff with students at the moment they need help – removing barriers to when, where and how connections occur.
“Part of what we're doing is recognizing that each person comes to Texas Tech with different circumstances, different backgrounds, different needs and different expectations,” said Mitzi Lauderdale, vice provost for academic innovation and student success. “We are meeting people where they are and helping them make the most of their experience.”
Simply put, the Raider Success Hub is a one-stop shop for Texas Tech students to engage with numerous resources ranging from the traditional academic advisor to the novel student success specialist to university librarians, financial aid advisors and life coaches. The sprawling web of offerings is not only meant to serve the student population but also remind the university community of a primary mission.
“I think students are at the center of what we do,” Lauderdale said, “and everything we do is through the lens of a student. There is a huge focus here (in the hub) on ‘our' students, not ‘my' students. We looked at what the student experience is like, and we wanted to foster a team spirit around enhancing that experience.”
Three foundational principles informed Texas Tech's approach to creating the Raider Success Hub: collaborating, communicating and connecting. As students access the hub, they will encounter a consistent emphasis on what is known as the three Cs.
“At the end of the day, the focus is on making sure students have the resources they need,” Lauderdale said. “This is a support system that will help them be successful.
“I think our greatest resource at Texas Tech is our people. The goal of the Raider Success Hub is to scale up relationships in an efficient way and ensure students feel like they have quick access to the people they need.”
For students arriving on campus for the first time or joining as a distance student, Texas Tech can sometimes be an intimidating place because of its size. Despite the important work of Red Raider Orientation sessions throughout the summer, a chunk of students still shows up with uncertainties and unanswered questions.
“During this growth period for the university, we have continually focused on trying to help people,” Lauderdale said. “I have always trained people that when they come across a student who is lost, they need to walk them to where they're going rather than point them. We want to connect them and have a warm handoff to where they're supposed to be.
“When you get to over 40,000 students, that can be a lot harder, so we needed to lean in on technology to help support warm handoffs and connections to our greatest resource, our people.”
The Raider Success Hub brings that vision to life. Students now have their own success team. When they log into the hub, they are able to see a wide array of individuals dedicated to their Texas Tech experience, including a career advisor, a financial aid advisor and an academic advisor.
“They can make appointments with the members of their success team,” Lauderdale said. “Appointments can be documented in the system so they can go back and reference what they've talked about previously. Advisors can share documents with students through the system.”
The Raider Success Hub uses technology to magnify the human touch that has long been a hallmark of Texas Tech. It is the best of both worlds with students aimed toward the college finish line, a diploma and life after college in a more thorough and thoughtful way.
“It is intended as a virtual one-stop shop for everything they need,” Lauderdale said. “Previously, a faculty member might have picked up a phone and told someone a student was struggling. Now, in this system, they can say a student is struggling and the right person will then reach out to the student to offer resources.”
The approach breaks ground in other ways with previously well-cordoned-off areas of university operations now more interconnected than ever through a collective focus on student success.
“It's bringing a lot of different areas together to support students,” Lauderdale said. “Financial aid is under a different vice president, and they are part of this. We have a lot of areas involved that are under the provost's office, but we have other areas as well like housing. There has been a focus on innovation, and we're not quite where we want to be yet.
Along those lines, Texas Tech expects to soon include predictive analytics into the hub's portfolio of services, allowing university officials to better gauge students who might need assistance in specific areas before they struggle.
“It would allow us to see where we need additional personal touches for students,” she said. “We could check in ahead of time and just see how they are doing and ask if they need resources or assistance in a certain area. It's comparable to a little nudge.”
As critical as collaboration has been, communication is equally important as Texas Tech experiments with the most effective ways to reach students.
“How we communicate is important,” she said. “What we're figuring out is the more casual we are, the better, so the language is less formal, and an email might say something like, ‘Hey, I'm just reaching out to check in and see how you're doing.'”
In many cases, those informal touches have struck conversational gold with students who have responded with gratitude and requests for assistance, guidance and resources, not necessarily in that order.
“Students are telling us how much they appreciate those check-ins because they were really struggling with something,” Lauderdale said. “We can document it and know that we're getting them connected to the right people through referrals.”
The system went live in February, the result of numerous staff working together to get everything just right ahead of the launch. Incoming students for the fall semester have likely received the most communication about the hub and its offerings, but the goal is to push the message out to all students and faculty.
“Our staff have really poured into this, and we continue to get positive feedback,” Lauderdale said. “The focus in the spring and summer was to get all those frontline employees and success team members trained up and ready to go. We've also had faculty who have raised their hand and expressed interest in this as well.
“We know that students are using it, and that's good news, and we know our incoming cohort of students will be most informed, and their parents are excited about it. They know what the Raider Success Hub is and as each new group comes in, the number of students connected to this will increase.”