New Student Success Website Benefits First-Year Students
A team of faculty and staff members at The University of Southern Mississippi created the Student Success website designed as a “one-stop shop” for students, faculty, staff, guests and parents seeking ranges of information.
The site helps students thrive at Southern Miss and offers information on common problems students have from trouble with biology or math to speaking anxiety.
The site also offers definitions of words necessary to be understood in the common classroom like plagiarism.
Web designer for the College of Arts and Letters Danielle Sypher-Haley designed the website and continues to maintain and update its uses.
Beginning as a spreadsheet of resources for students, Student Success at Southern Miss has become a major tool of support for not only students, but everyone involved at the university such as faculty, staff and parents.
The Student Success committee was organized through the provost’s office, whose purpose is to support and fulfill students’ educational experiences during their time at Southern Miss.
The site offers sections for parents where frequently-asked questions are answered and sections for faculty and staff where tools are offered to make it easier for them to assist students.
“In the past it was very difficult for anyone to find some of this information as it was located on various sites,” said Douglas Masterson, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and chair of the Student Success Implementation Team (SSIT).
“The current website is really a ‘launching pad’ that coordinates the information that is available on the various websites, so students, parents, faculty and staff only need to go to one location and they can find exactly what they need. It simplifies the process of finding valuable information and should prevent confusion and frustration.”
For first-year students, the Student Success website includes maps of campus, dining hall hours, tips on professionalism like how to email professors, avoiding plagiarism and improving study and note-taking habits.
The website has information on the different positions of faculty at Southern Miss, like the differences between a dean, a provost and a chair and also tells students where to go for help dealing with academic or personal issues.
For upperclassmen, the website features a guide to all things Southern Miss with email addresses and contact numbers. There are convenient shortcuts to log in to SOAR, Turnitin, Blackboard and Gmail.
“Our hope is that students will learn just how many resources are available on campus and how many people at Southern Miss are devoted to making it easier for students to succeed,” said Amy Miller, associate dean and professor of the College of Arts and Letters and committee member of SSIT.
“If one student who’s feeling depressed and alone is led to the counseling center by visiting the Success site’s Personal Matters page, we will consider the site a success.”
The site is maintained by volunteered time by the College of Arts and Letters, which donates the time of their web designer Danielle Sypher-Haley and their Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Amy Miller, with input from Erin Dornan of First-Year Initiative and the Student Success Committee.
The implementation team dedicates time to meet twice each month to discuss the website and issues relating to student success initiatives at USM.
“However, this is a ‘living’ website and we encourage students, faculty and staff to make suggestions on what else we could add that people would find helpful,” Masterson said.
“We hope that everyone at Southern Miss takes a look at the site and helps us improve it and keep it up to date with changing or late-breaking information,” Miller said.
“This site belongs to all of us at Southern Miss—administrators, faculty, staff and students—and the more people who contribute, the more useful the site will be.”
After two months of the examining the resources on the university website, looking at offices, departments and resources that would help students succeed were collected, the website was produced and requires daily upkeep.
“The most important thing we want people to know is that we are committed to making the site useful for students, faculty and staff, and we believe the way to do that is by crowdsourcing,” Miller said.
“Let us know what you want to see on the site, tell us about any resources we’re missing, or just drop us a line to let us know if it was helpful to you.”
To submit any feedback, there is a contact form on the front page of the Student Success site that directs to the Webmaster.