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If you are interesting in:

  • trying to create or improve your pre-college programs;
  • interested in improving student retention;
  • wanting to build a campus- or system-wide team to tackle student retention

Then you need to attend Retention 101

Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, Tucson, AZ, October 21-23, 2009.

The Educational Policy Institute invites leaders and practitioners from postsecondary institutions who are uniquely interested in finding solutions to increasing the success of students. With beautiful Tucson as a backdrop, affording the opportunity to simultaneously relax and focus, institutional teams and other individuals will spend 2.5 days learning about student retention and designing plans to improve the success of students at their campuses.

Led by internationally-recognized experts Drs. Watson Scott Swail (Educational Policy Institute) and Dr. Peter Dietsche (University of Toronto) this retreat is designed for institutions who are either at the initial stages of planning for student retention or need to enhance an existing program. During the retreat, teams will:

The Retention Retreat is designed for institutional teams and individuals from two-year, four-year, and proprietary institutions seriously interested in changing how students are served. It offers professionals an opportunity to get away from the campus in order to focus exclusively on creating tangible plans for success. When participants return to their campuses, they will be equipped with the tools necessary to begin implementing an effective retention program.

Our annual workshop for postsecondary professionals from student services, financial aid, academic services, recruitment and admissions, and institutional leadership to learn more about student retention and success and the fundamentals of building an institutional plan for success.


Track 1. Pre-College Programs. This track is focused on programs at the middle and high school levels designed to target and support students in the preparation and planning for higher education. GEAR UP and TRIO programs are examples of these programs.

Track 2. Two-Year Colleges. Track 2 will provide details specific to professionals at the two-year level. Given that this is a main entry point for first-generation and other potentially at-risk students, this is an important area for focus.

Track 3. Four-Year Colleges. The third track will look at four-year institutions and how they can prepare and improve retention and graduation rates.

Track 4. Adult Students. This track focuses is designed to interest professionals who deal with adult students at any level, including proprietary, career colleges, and online/distance providers.  

Additional themes that will be discussed during regular sessions and special affinity group sessions at breakfasts:

  • STEM students/programs
  • At-risk students, including low-income students and students of color
  • Small institutions
  • Strategic enrollment management
  • Leadership
  • Academic support services
  • Social support services
  • Financial aid
  • Community involvement/support
  • Parental involvement


  • Dr. Watson Scott Swail, President of the Educational Policy Institute and noted retention expert.
  • Dr. Peter Dietsche, William G. Davis Chair in Community College Leadership, University of Toronto, and developer of the FastTrack student tracking system.
  • Dr. Jay Goff, Dean of Enrollment Management, Missouri University of Science & Technology, Rolla, Missouri.
  • John LaNear, JD, PHD, President, Grantham University
  • Ms. Kim Landis, Executive Director, Ashtabula ACCESS Program, Jefferson, Ohio
  • Mr. Victor Ruiz, Cleveland Scholarship Program (CSP)


The retreat will start at 1pm on October 21, and end at 11:30am on October 23. The following schedule is preliminary and does not include all aspects of the tracks.


12:00am – 1:00pm Registration

1:00pm – 2:30pm Introduction to Student Retention
The introductory session will look at the impact of student dropout on campuses, the cost of dropout to the individual, institution, and society, and how addressing this issue is an important part of institutional change and continuous improvement.

2:30pm – 3:00pm Refreshment Break

3:00pm – 4:30pm A Framework for Student Success
How do we envision the retention process? What is it that matters most to students and institutions? This session will introduce an evidence-based framework for understanding the dynamics of student retention and persistence. Based on a decade worth of research, Swail’s geometric model of student retention outlines a process for institutions to perceive and conceptualize the planning process.

The framework focuses on student cognitive and social outcomes, as they related to five areas of campus services:

• Financial Aid
• Student Services
• Academic Services
• Teaching and Learning
• Recruitment & Admissions

6:00pm – 8:00pm Reception
The evening reception will provide an opportunity for participants to get to know one another and share their experiences over heavy hors d’oeuvres.


7:30am – 8:30am Continental Breakfast (included in registration fee)

8:30am – 10:30am The Campus Audit
This session will focus on the importance of understanding your campus and collecting detailed information about practices, strategies, and programs on campus. Institutions must audit their efforts in order to find value in what has been done, while also setting benchmarks for future efforts. In this session, participants will learn:

• What should we look for on campus?
• How do we measure success?
• What data are important to collect?
• What do we do with all this information?
• How do we work toward a meaningful campus-wide plan for retention?

10:30am – 11:00pm Break

11:00am – 12:15pm Effective Practices in Student Retention (Part I)
The remainder of the day will focus on discussion revolving the various institutional inputs for student retention, including Recruitment and Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Services, Academic Services, and Curriculum & Instruction. Our conference faculty will present information on proven strategies currently used in institutions around the US and Canada, and invite participants to share their experiences and hindsight.
Using the retention framework as a guide, the information presented on Day Two will begin to layout a menu of strategies that can be considered for your retention plan.

12:15pm – 1:45pm Lunch (included in registration fee)

1:45pm – 3:15pm Effective Practices (Part II)

3:15pmTeams will work independently on their plans for the remainder of the day.



7:30am – 8:30am Continental Breakfast (included in registration fee)

8:30am – 9:15am Discussion of Goals and Objectives
Teams and individuals will present their goals and objectives with discussion for all.

9:15am – 10:00am Campus Change, Institutional Leadership, and other Important Factors
Without the buy in of campus leadership, reform is difficult if not unlikely at any postsecondary institution. This session will discuss the importance of campus leadership and how to gain their interest and total support in developing a campus-based retention initiative. As well, leadership only counts if there are those to be led. The involvement and buy-in of faculty and departments will also be discussed.

10:00am – 10:15am Break

10:15am – 11:00am Monitoring Student and Program Outcomes Progress
The capstone session to our conference will discuss the importance of monitoring student success and institutional progress. The ability of institutions to benchmark and continuously collect and review data is paramount to the success of any large-scale initiative. Issues include:

• determining what data to collect
• how and when to collect information
• using data in a progressive manner
• understanding how data can change your plan
• incorporating a continuous-improvement cycle as a model for institutional change

11:00am – 11:40am Pulling It All Together
This last session will pull all the information together from the past two and a half days. Participants will be given instructions on how to proceed in the planning and implementation process.

11:40pm – 11:45am Final Thoughts & Adjournment


The Fall Leadership Institute is being held at the beautiful five-star Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona. The Resort has large guest rooms, a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, named one of the Top 25 courses in the US and Canada by Golf Resort Guide and also one of the Top 100 Women-Friendly Courses by Golf for Women. The Red Door Spa is available for pampering, as required, and the resort has five spectacular pools, including a 177' water slide. A Tennis & Health Center is also available, a yoga & PIlates studio, indoor racquetball, and workout area. Hiking, biking, horseback riding and ballooning are all available for recreation.

Contact the Hotel at  (520) 742-6000. When booking, make sure you state that you are part of the EPI Leadership Institute to receive the special rate of only $209/night.


The Tucson International Airport is located just 30 - 40 minutes and about 18 miles from the Resort. Tucson International Airport provides nonstop service to 18 cities and connections to more than 121 destinations.

From Tucson International Airport to The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa:

  • Take Tucson Blvd. To Valencia.
  • Turn left onto Valencia and proceed to Campbell.
  • Turn right onto Campbell (which turns into Kino, then back into Campbell).
  • Proceed approximately 14 miles to Skyline Drive.
  • Turn right onto Skyline Drive, which becomes Sunrise and then right onto Via Palomita.
  • Proceed to the hotel entrance.
Ground Transportation Local transportation arrangements can be made through Foothills Sedan Transportation.

Visit for important flight and service information.
View Flights In and Out of Tucson


Registration for the Fall Institute is $995, which includes two continental breakfasts, lunch, and a welcome reception. Teams of 4 or more people receive a 20 percent reduction. As well, past participants in our Retention 2009 conference will also be given the 20 percent reduction.