World Bank Reports on Higher education consistently points to evidence that it fosters growth, reduces poverty and boosts prosperity with benefits for the individual and the educational system generally.
One of its main role is being a route to social mobility for Caymanians and residents on these islands. Our university must prepare students to succeed and prosper in the broader knowledge-based global economy and a Caymanian society which has evolved from being historically homogenous, steeped in agriculture, turtling, fishing, rope making and ship-building among others, to a modern, plural, multicultural society that survives on sophisticated forms of economic interactions.
To accomplish this requires that we must take them from the academic and intellectual points at which they enter University and welcome them into a caring environment in which each student feels a sense of belonging and connectedness to the professionals in the classroom and those in administration offices. They must know that all that is done is geared towards their success.
An advantage of a small campus is that it allows every student to be known and this is bolstered when there is engagement in pro-active, intensive advising and systems put in place, which identify problems as they surface– such as registering for a wrong course, missing classes, low scores in early exams, failing exams, loosing scholarships and even dropping out. Students must know about the campus, its ‘wrap-around services’, tutoring centres such as Math, Writing, Science and other Labs intended to reinforce learning and break down knotty concepts and ideas while working in small group and one-to-one settings.
To accomplish this task will also mean getting better at accumulating relevant statistics that cover teaching effectiveness, retention and persistence levels, among others so the University is competent at providing more personalized assistance to students.
Students are more likely to succeed when they have relevant, correct and up-to-date information on careers and job sectors, which are in demand and, the kinds of opportunities their chosen majors are likely to provide. Deciding on a career is a most consequential decision. Steve Mintz points out in his article ‘ The Eight Pillars of Student Success ‘ published in Higher Education , November 2019, ‘There is no doubt that the best way to build students’ credentials or to help them make an informed choice about a future career is to increase their opportunities to take part in experiential learning opportunities. Internships, mentored research, practicums and field-based learning experiences, service learning, and study abroad all help students clarify their educational and career goals and build their skills.’
On any university campus, the most consequential activity that takes place in deciding student success is what goes on in the classroom. The professor in the classroom must show genuine care for the students to whose minds they minister. Students want to know that there is genuine interest in their success.
The effective professor knows the names of his students and inquires when they miss a class. She uses a variety of teaching strategies to meet the learning styles of students and is constantly updating information and ideas to ensure relevance. While education involves the transmission of knowledge including basic facts, job skills, cultural norms and values, teaching, to be most effective and lasting, must be viewed as a ministry of caring and nurturing.
The broader society has a role- there are many students who need financial support and contributions of the private sector to complement what government provides, is crucial. Support for tertiary education must be a priority for all of us as we ensure the success of our students.
The local university is making strides in all of these areas, as it remains committed to the academic enterprise and student success.