New program makes transition smoother for first-time UACCB students

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville (UACCB) has tried identifying ways to improve its student retention rate, with the latest effort being a mandatory new student orientation.

The school enacted a policy this year requiring first-year students to attend an orientation session.

More than 230 students attended the first session last week, while the second session attracted 186 people Friday.

The school hopes these introductory events will help students like Lisa Gillihan feel more prepared to continue their education and succeed.

Gillihan recently decided to pursue a college degree 32 years after graduating high school.

"I've just figured this is me time now," Gillihan said, "so I'm ready to get out there in the workforce, actually."

The 49-year-old mother of three has battled stage four breast cancer for the past two years. She is now in her sixth month of remission, and says she is more than ready to take on the challenges of college.

"Struggling with algebra a little bit," Gillihan said, laughing. "We have great tutors too, just been out of school for 32 years."

Gillihan says her main worry was just finding her classes, but UACCB has made it easier for her and hundreds of other new students to get to know campus and discover what resources are available.

"We're hoping that this is already introducing them to the campus, giving them that information that they need to succeed and kind of breaking that ice a little bit," said Katrina Farris.

Farris has organized the now mandatory orientation sessions that all first-year students have to attend.

"Even some of our faculty and staff said how beneficial it's already seemed from those students that came through last week and they started this week," Farris said.

The school intends to improve retention through orientations, which the most recent calculations show sitting at 48 percent.

At least for Gillihan, she feels more prepared to take on this next chapter of life having received more information on everything from the school's computer systems to financial aid.

"I'm just trying to absorb every minute of it," Gillihan added. "I think you learn that when you have something like breast cancer. Enjoy today, and just the learning part I love."

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