Recently, ETSU students between 30 and 60 credit hours have received a survey from Academic Affairs, specifically the University Advisement Center. The survey was made by the John Gardner Institute as part of a $169,000 grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Stacy Cummings-Onks, the principal investigator for the grant and the director of the University Advisement Center, explained that Gardner himself helped create the survey, which looks at all areas of ETSU’s campus in a formalized system. The survey asks questions about different parts of student life, including questions about what services students believe are helping them succeed.

Cummings-Onks also said it looked at student barriers to success, such as not knowing the university offered services like tutoring.

The survey was intended to gather information from students on how to better increase retention rates, specifically among sophomores, which ETSU doesn’t typically retain as well. However, services developed through the grant will benefit freshmen, juniors and seniors as well.

The grant will last two years, and consist of two phases: analysis and implementation.

However, retention is only one aspect of the grant. Other aspects of the grant include a retention specialist, Jillian Alexander, professional development for staff and a retreat at the end of March.

Part of the professional development includes all members of the University Advisement Center staff getting their career development facilitator certifications, which is a six-month process they began last week.

“We do feel like having that career development facilitator certification will give us an extra skillset that not all of the advisors had the ability to get,” said Cummings-Onks.

The retreat is on March 20 and 21 in Valleybrook and will include representatives from the student body as well as staff. While the survey responses have not been looked at yet, and won’t be looked at until the survey is closed, the results will influence the retreat.

“We do want to say a thank you to the student body at ETSU for taking that time to answer about 41 questions, I think, and I know they weren’t terribly difficult, but it did take your time,” said Cummings-Onks on the more than 600 survey responses they received overnight.

“I feel like it’ll make us a tighter campus as far as the services we provide and knowing what each other’s doing …  I feel like we’ll be doing some better resource management and program planning,” said Cummings-Onks on whether or not she believed the grant would improve the university.