Vargas Speaks - Episode 5a

Sep 1, 2016

On Thursday, August 18, Dan Woods sat down for his monthly conversation with Southeast President Carlos Vargas. It happened to be on move-in day at Southeast. Dr. Vargas and Dan talked about an increase in freshman attending the university and about the new Towers Cafe. He also told Dan about the two big goals for the university this year.

Vargas: When I talk to students and to people in general right now, I talk to them about two goals for this year: increase our retention and increase our graduation rate. The more immediate one is increase our retention. So, I want to increase our retention from where we are which is about 73%, in about 3-4 years to 80%. So, I want to increase it 2% per year. And then for graduation rates, I want to go to 60% {for} the six-year graduation rate. We are at about 50%. So, I want to increase it by 10 points.What I've been telling people is I wanted to make sure that if you stopped a student walking across campus and if somebody goes to a student and says, "So what are the goals of the university?" I want the students to be able to answer that question. And these are two goals and if they can say, the university is trying to increase the retention and the graduation rates, I think it's like, "Wow." Here's a random student and the student knows.

Woods: So there are the two goals: increase retention and increase the graduation rate. That led to a student that really impressed Dr. Vargas.

Vargas: Well, guess what? This morning as I was taking a ride with Kendra Skinner (Director of Residence Life)...after the interview this morning and I was at the Rec Center to see the first arrivals from the families and the students and all that to move in. After that, Kendra Skinner gave me a tour and we went around every one of the residence halls to just see how things were going. So we went to each one of them. I went to one of them and I think that was Dearmont...I got there and I was talking and there were a lot of students, a lot of volunteers. It is wonderful to see all these volunteers excited, energized and they're ready there to [help]. I mean when a car gets there, they go like flies...whoosh...everybody falls on the car, they all start helping them and you know, taking boxes and things and then taking them to the room and all that. So I was talking and I was start to say high to them and all that. Someone said so how are things going and I said, "Well, we're trying to..." and the a student interrupted me and says, "Yes, he's trying to increase retention to 80%." And I thought, "Oh my god, that is exactly what I wanted. Here's a student, randomly out of there, knowing what it is that we want to achieve." I mean, that's a major accomplishment. And the simpler you make the goals, the easier it is for them to do that. And then they start talking to each other.

Woods: It doesn't have to be complicated. 

Vargas: Exactly. Exactly.

 Woods: Not at all.

Vargas: So that's one of things...I was really happy when I heard that student articulate that.