Rick Gatteau, associate provost for academic success, spoke to us about Stony Brook’s commitment to helping students of all socioeconomic levels succeed and to increasing the University’s four-year graduation rates.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT STONY BROOK?
I help lead our student success, retention and graduation efforts. I first began at the University in 2002 in academic advising, and now work in a broader capacity in the Division of Undergraduate Education, developing and implementing programs and services that help students achieve their academic goals. When I’m asked by family, friends and colleagues, “What do you do?” I often reply: “My job is to help students cross the finish line and graduate!”
HOW DOES SBU HELP STUDENTS SUCCEED?
For students to be successful, they need to know and feel that people care about them. They also need to receive guidance that supports all dimensions of their wellness — academic, social, physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational and intellectual. Stony Brook goes far beyond many campuses by placing a lot of value on building community and creating a strong sense of place — in the residence halls, among commuter students, within campus groups such as the Undergraduate Colleges. We provide a range of career, advising, tutorial and personal support services that help students mature and develop.
A RECENT STANFORD STUDY RANKED SBU AMONG THE TOP 10 COLLEGES PROVIDING A PROVEN PATH TO UPWARD MOBILITY. HOW DO WE ENSURE THAT ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS HAVE THE TOOLS THEY NEED TO GRADUATE?
This recognition made the entire University very proud and reinforced my personal commitment to working in public higher education and supporting our economically disadvantaged students. There are many programs at Stony Brook that provide holistic support, including our nationally recognized EOP/AIM [Educational Opportunity Program/Advancement on Individual Merit] program. What’s rewarding is that our students find great financial value at Stony Brook and have access to vast resources, including many experiential learning opportunities, such as conducting research with faculty beginning in their first year; participating in study abroad and internships; and developing leadership skills through involvement in clubs and organizations.
PRESIDENT STANLEY HAS COMMITTED TO INCREASING SBU’S FOUR-YEAR GRADUATION RATE FROM 46 PERCENT IN 2014 TO 60 PERCENT BY 2018. HOW WILL WE MEET THAT GOAL?
It requires dedication and commitment from everyone connected to Stony Brook. To date, we have achieved the University’s highest four-year graduation rate with the Class of 2016, reaching just over 54 percent. And, for the Class of 2018, we launched a comprehensive “Finish in 4” program two years ago and currently have the highest junior-year retention rate in the University’s history.
WHAT IS THE FINISH IN 4 PROGRAM?
It’s a Universitywide initiative focused on Stony Brook students completing their undergraduate degree within four years. Within the academic advising realm, we help students develop clear, realistic academic plans when they begin their studies at Stony Brook, and then actively monitor their progress each semester. We recently hired two Finish in 4 advisors who are leading many of our outreach efforts, including following up with students who don’t advance register, need to declare a major, or are registered in courses that don’t support timely degree progress. We also have a Finish in 4 fund, established by President Stanley, which provides financial support for students in their final year of study who could not otherwise remain at Stony Brook and graduate within the four-year time frame.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONLY ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO STUDENTS ENTERING COLLEGE TODAY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
When I speak with new students at orientation, I am compelled to give advice because I am, at heart, an academic advisor. My last piece of advice talks about graduation and the day they will walk into LaValle Stadium and hear the roar of the crowd and the cheers from family and friends. And I share that while I know that having a diploma in hand is an incredible accomplishment, I have one wish: that they will look back on their time at Stony Brook and be able to say, “I have no regrets.” So, my advice is to get involved, take risks, work hard, seek out challenges and become your best self!