Center for Academic Excellence Tackles Student Success


Center for Academic Excellence Tackles Student Success

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Aug. 19, 2019) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has made great progress in the success of its students year over year.

Those successes don’t come from nowhere. They can be attributed to the “women behind the curtain” working in the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE).

Regina Williams Davis, assistant provost for student success and academic support and director of CAE, is at the helm to increase retention and graduation to help special student groups such as newly admitted students, athletes and males.

CAE received a grant to begin the Aggie Success Academy. This summer, the academy hosted 22 incoming first-year students to take seven credit hours in history, English and an online freshman studies course, with coding and fitness components.

“We knew we had success with our Summer Bridge programs so it was a matter of doing unique and different things,” Davis said. “That’s why we added the coding portion, the learning specialists to help our students, and created a sense of belonging with external events.”

Aggie Success Academy was selected for the inaugural Student Success Innovation Lab (SSIL) which is designed to help UNC System universities develop and test new strategies for promoting student success. Students who participated in the Aggie Success Academy were selected randomly for pre- and post-program interviews with an external evaluator to report the impact of the strategies.

Dawn Nail, assistant director of CAE, said students who participated in the academy were exposed to different departments, divisions, advisers and fellow students who helped them stay on track and will continue to help throughout the school year.

“Our students mostly ended the semester on a good note and we’re prepared to start the academic year,” Nail said. “We’re excited about what we learned to have an even better experience next year.”

In addition to the academy, CAE has seen achievements with its male retention and athlete academic success programs.

In 2018-19 academic year, Aggie Male Empowerment Network (Aggie MEN) reorganized its male success program to a living-learning community with freshmen males mentored by junior and senior males.

Able to reach 500 male students, Aggie MEN improved the retention and persistence of young men in the program. In fact, the persistence level of men at A&T exceeded the women for the first time last year, Davis said.

Athletic success had skyrocketed since Leslie Rowls took over as director of the Student-Athlete Academic Enhancement Program (SAAEP) in 2013. SAAEP provides comprehensive and progressive services and resources to student-athletes through academic monitoring, intrusive academic advisement, study hall coordination and tutorial assistance. 

Through this program, Rowls and her team were able to change the culture of the university and make academic success the backbone of the athletic achievement N.C. A&T has seen in the last five years, winning more championships in the last two years than the previous five years combined.

Prior to Rowls’ arrival, the football team was on a postseason ban and four teams on penalty for not meeting the NCAA standard of academic progress rate (APR) and just over half of athletes were graduating. Now, nearly 70 percent of athletes are graduating, one third of athletes have made the dean’s or chancellor’s list and no team was penalized for academics during the 2018-19 season.

Rowls also noted that change has come because of a campus-wide commitment to certifying Aggie athletes. Her team asks department chairs and deans to perform degree audits for the student-athletes in their departments.

“When I arrived, about 28 percent of degree audits were completed,” she said. “Now we have had 100 percent completion almost every semester.”

At the start of a new academic year, Davis, Nail and Rowls hope to continue to build student success and keep N.C. A&T at the top.

“We set that expectation for students and monitor their progress from orientation to graduation,” Davis said. “People are paying attention to us because what we’re doing works and you can see it in the data. A&T is the model for student success.”