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First Four Weeks Strategy Receives STLCC’s Innovation of the Year Award

May 14, 2014

2014 Innovation of the Year Winners  
STLCC’s First Four Weeks retention strategy was named the 2014 Innovation of the Year. Members of the group who developed this project are, from left, Kimberlyann Granger, Scott Gevaert, Teresa Huether, Anne Wessely and Sharon Fox. Not pictured are Donna Nelson, Dahna Willis, Cynthia Ballentine, Gail Hafer and Becky Schantz.

A strategy designed to increase retention and ultimately enable larger numbers of students to achieve their educational goals has been chosen as St. Louis Community College’s Innovation of the Year.

First Four Weeks (F4W) is a strategy created by the Professional Development coordinators on each campus for faculty to engage students during the most critical weeks of the semester in terms of retention – the first four weeks. F4W is a list of 26 tried-and-true classroom activities/approaches in five areas designed to: 

  • Build and encourage relationships.
  • Raise expectations.
  • Promote active, engaged learning.
  • Integrate student support into learning experiences.
  • Ensure that students know where they stand.

Faculty members are asked to choose from those activities/approaches and to commit to implementing at least four of them during the first four weeks of a semester. The goals for F4W are to involve as many faculty as possible in student success strategies, to provide faculty with information regarding the best practices and student resources, and to increase student retention and success. Since its inception, almost 600 unique faculty have engaged in the F4W program.

Faculty members involved in developing this project include Sharon Fox, Scott Gevaert and Teresa Huether from Florissant Valley; Donna Nelson and Dahna Willis, Forest Park; Cynthia Ballentine, Gail Hafer and Anne Wessely, Meramec; and Kimberlyann Granger and Becky Schantz, Wildwood.

F4W is part of STLCC’s Achieving the Dream Initiative, through which STLCC has leveraged its efforts, seeking to strengthen the entering student experience and the transition of students from developmental to college-level work, with the immediate goal of increasing retention and the ultimate aim of enabling larger numbers of students to achieve their desired educational goals.

The other strategies are New Student Registration Workshops, New Student Orientation, Smart Start:Student Success. After several years of declining trends in retention, STLCC is showing positive results, including a three percent increase in retention for first-time-in-college students as a result of these strategies.

The League for Innovation in the Community College established the Innovation of the Year Award to recognize individuals or groups from alliance member colleges who have created and implemented innovative programs, practices, partnerships, policies and activities that improve the institution’s ability to serve students and the community. Criteria for the award are quality, efficiency, cost effectiveness, replication, creativity and timeliness.